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Married On Sunday. Fired On Friday. What’s Next?


This week's issue of The New Republic asks, "What Now?" -- a question that is doubtless on more than a few minds in the wake of the recent historic Supreme Court ruling which legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Indeed, as the dust settles and the immediate wave of elation subsides, the gay community will be faced with the task of reassessing its position on the road to receiving its full civil rights, a goal which is far from achieved even after this major stride has been made.

In the state of Pennsylvania, we have our own particular issues to contend with, ones that have remained remarkably low on the radar of the local social and political scenes.

Harvey Hurdle, a board member of Equality Pennsylvania, reminded his community just after the historic ruling was announced: "This is a great week for LGBT Americans and we should keep the celebration going. However, the victory is bittersweet here in Pennsylvania because, as most Pennsylvanians are shocked to learn, it is still legal to fired from your job, turned away from a business, or evicted from an apartment just because of who you are or who you love."

In a sense, it is possible that these matters have been easily overshadowed in the past, as the characterization of the gay rights struggle in the majority of national media outlets has thus far been heavily focused on the push for marriage equality.

Last year, OMAAT reported on the campaign for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide protection from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including protecting workers from being fired on this basis.


"A lot of people are surprised to know that, currently, there is no federal law in place that prohibits this type of blatant discrimination in the workplace," said Dan Gabor of the Pennsylvania chapter of Americans for Workplace Opportunity, speaking to OMAAT last August.

To date, there is still no action on this bill, which has passed through the Sendate but has yet to be introduced to the 114th Congress. While certain states have enacted civil protections for LGBT workers, our own has left workers grievously vulnerable to sexual discrimination, making federal legislation a priority for many local advocacy organizations.

Human Rights Campaign, undeniably a fierce and consistent presence in Philadelphia's NPO circuit, has long been prevalent in vocalizing the need for workplace equality for the LGBT community.

As part of its platform, HRC has stressed the passage of comprehensive civil rights legislation, which would include workplace protections in the event that ENDA fails to pass. The proposed bill would also encompass housing, public accommodations, credit, and education.

"This is a visionary idea that Congresswoman Bella Abzug brought to Congress in 1974," writes HRC's Chad Griffin. "Its time has come."

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has withdrawn its support for ENDA, citing the bill's provision that would allow "religiously affiliated employers" to continue to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

OMAAT will continue to follow the push for LGBT civil rights legislation as it unfolds.

By Bessam Idani

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