In June, the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional thereby allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the current states where it is legal. This sea change in the recognition of same-sex marriages has led to significant new changes in public attitudes with strong implications for the American economy and workplaces. In a new Harris Poll released Thursday and commissioned by Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, nearly half (49 percent) of gay and lesbian adults would consider changing jobs if their employer required them to transfer to a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized, compared to just 30 percent last year.
The new survey also reveals that two-thirds (67 percent) of all Americans today, regardless of their feelings of approval or disapproval, believe that marriage equality is “inevitable everywhere in the U.S.”
“With the end of DOMA and our recovering economy, major corporations and employers that operate in states that don’t yet recognize same-sex marriage will find it tougher to recruit and keep the best LGBT talent,” said Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Founding Executive Director. “Same-sex marriage recognition by the federal government is an historic breakthrough. It’s now time to renew our efforts to pass a federal employment nondiscrimination law that is truly inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The U.S. Congress is today considering passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would provide protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. If this legislation were enacted, the new poll reveals that at least one-third (34 percent) of LGBT adults who are not yet open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work would become comfortable “coming out” at work. Regrettably, the survey also reveals a need for greater education on the issue since nearly eight of 10 (76 percent) adults wrongly think it is currently illegal, under federal law, for an employer to fire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
The annual 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Witeck Communications, among 2,577 U.S. adults, of whom 2,150 indicated they are heterosexual and 371 self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (including an over-sample of gay and lesbian adults). Begun in 2002, this survey has become a trusted annual barometer of attitudes surrounding LGBT issues in the workplace and is the longest-running national survey of its kind.
When it comes to career advancement, the new survey reveals a clear majority (60 percent) of gay and lesbian adults also would consider declining a job promotion if it required them to transfer to a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized, compared to only a third (33 percent) when asked last year. Also, eight out of 10 (79 percent) gay and lesbian adults, other factors being equal, would prefer a job with an employer in a state where same-sex marriages are recognized over an employer in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, compared to 68 percent in 2012.
Past polls show that non-LGBT allies are dedicated partners in the fight for workplace equality and, according to the new survey, they are growing in number. More than a third (35 percent) of heterosexual adults consider themselves to be an ally of LGBT people, compared to a quarter (27 percent) who declared so two years ago. Also, more than one out of four (28 percent) heterosexual adults say they keep informed about issues of importance to the LGBT community, compared to just a fifth (19 percent) in 2011.
Transgender Americans remain especially at risk for workplace discrimination, yet increased visibility can lead to more respect and acceptance. Nearly eight out of 10 (77 percent) heterosexual adults agree that how an employee performs at their job should be the standard for judging an employee, not whether or not they are transgender, compared to 67 percent of heterosexual adults tested in 2007.
The Out & Equal Workplace Summit will open on Monday, October 28, and close on Thursday, October 31, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nearly 2,500 attendees are expected from more than 30 countries. LGBT employees and straight allies, along with human resources and diversity professionals, representing a broad cross-section of the nation’s leading companies—a majority from the Fortune 500—are set to participate in this year’s Summit, focused on achieving workplace equality.
For more information about the Summit or to register, please visit www.outandequal.org.
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