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The Civil Rights movement of 1964 was an important time forAmerica; likewise, passing ordinance 1856 will also be important forKalamazooand other cities across the country. The rights of gay, lesbian and transgender (LGBT) individuals will be protected from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment by passing Ordinance 1856.
Individuals can be denied housing, public accommodations, and can even be fired from their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.Â Ordinance 1856, which was strongly endorsed by the Kalamazoo Gazette, will change the current employment law that already protects people based on their color, race, religion, national origin, sex, weight, marital status, physical and mental disability and family status (Kalamazoo Gazette). There are many large corporations that support not only a local ordinance but also, federal protections.
In December 2009, the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), bill H.R. 3017, should reach the Michigan House of Representatives to vote on the bill. ENDA would provide federal employment protection for the LGBT communities. It is actually legal in 29 states to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (ENDA Par.1). The ENDA bill is similar to the current civil right bills, the Title VII Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the American Disabilities Act, and does not require any quotas to be met (ENDA Par.2, 4). Quite simply, it provides federal protection from unfair employment practices in hiring, firing, promotions, and monetary compensation decisions. ENDA does not pertain to small businesses, the military, and religious organizations (ENDA Par.4). If ENDA is passed, it would provide federal employment protection.
Quite often, the LGBT community experiences discriminatory practices during the rental process. Unfortunately, there are no housing laws that prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community. The Housing and Urban Development Act only covers race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability. There is very little information except word of mouth regarding housing discrimination in the LGBT community. It is not tracked because there is nowhere to report it. During a phone interview with Narda Beauchamp, an active member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, she stated an example of housing discrimination is the story of Max. Max is a well known businessman in theKalamazooarea. Last summer he was looking for a new apartment with his partner. He called on an apartment that he saw in the newspaper. Max told the man that he and his roommate were looking for a one bedroom apartment, the man hesitated and said "Well as long as you're not queer, it would be okay." Max replied that he is a gay man. There was a long, dead silence on the phone. Finally, the landlord replied that he could stop and look at the apartment. The landlord did rent to Max and his partner but they experienced many issues with their neighbors (Personal Interview).
Everybody experiences prejudice at some point in their life. It could be how they dress, look, eat, talk or because of their weight. It is especially disturbing when people in the LGBT community cannot find the same type of public accommodations that are available to general public. This is especially true with health and safety services. An example of this is a female who had transitioned to a male found out that he had cervical cancer. Over twenty doctors refused to treat him. Finally, he found a doctor that would treat him, but was over one hundred miles away. At that point, it was too late to treat him and he later died (How Do Transgender Par.12).Â Transgender people often experience hate crimes at an alarming rate. The average person has a one in 18,000.00 chance of being murdered, where a transgender person has a one in twelve chance of being murdered (How Do Transgender Par. 5).
One of the biggest problems that the LGBT community faces is unfair labor practices. One example is the story of David. David was a United States Army colonel that had over 16 years of experience in the military. He was a highly decorated hero who had served in a Special Forces unit inPanamaandHaiti. David was well respected by the 120 people that reported to him. He had applied to be a specialist on terrorism at the Library of Congress, and his impeccable reputation led to a job offer. After he accepted the job offer, David met with his new boss and told him that he was going to be transitioning to a female, Diane. David was later told that he "was not a good fit for the library."(Protect transgender Par. 2 &3).
Thankfully, not all employers discriminate against the transgender community. In fact, 88% of the Fortune 500 companies have policies in place that protect their workers from discrimination (ACLU Par. 23). Gradually, companies are changing their employment policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Back in 2000, only 1% of the Fortune 500 companies had such procedures in place (ACLU Par.23). The Fortune 500 companies realized that employee productivity is lost when there is a hostile work environment. Indeed, it is estimated that the cost in lost productivity is $1.4 billion (ACLU Par.22). Businesses like Nike, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Microsoft and Morgan Stanley all have employment procedures that protect their workers from discrimination (ACLU Par.24).
Those that oppose Ordinance 1856 state that there would be confusion about who would really be using the restrooms. It is believed that the privacy rights of others in restrooms will be violated in public restrooms, showers, and locker rooms. Though some may understandably feel uncomfortable in women's restrooms, stalls are provided for privacy. According to the opposition, a situation occurred at a Kalamazoo Health Club where a transgender male used the female locker room which made other women uncomfortable.Â Allowing transgender individuals to use the appropriate restroom only when their transition is complete would be a simple solution for the awkward situation (Special Rights Discrimination Par.3).
According to the ACLU, 89% of Americans believe that everyone should have equal rights (ACLU Pageiii). As of 2007, 20 states, theDistrict of Columbia, and 171 cities have bans on employment discrimination (ACLU Par. 25). It is now time to protect the civil rights of the LGBT community. As the late Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (Letter From a Birmingham Jail Page 1).Â All people inKalamazooshould be treated fairly and equally, which includes our LGBT community. On November 3, 2009,Kalamazoovoters passed Ordinance 1856.