Employment discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation & identity
Presidential executive action during the late 1990s:
|1998-MAY-28: President Clinton signed executive order 11478 which bans
discrimination against employees in the executive branch of the federal government on the
basis of their sexual orientation and gender. In a statement, Clinton said:|
"The order provides a uniform policy for the federal government to
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal
civilian workforce and states that policy for the first time in an
executive order of the president."
Thus ended a 41 year struggle to ban anti-gay discrimination among
federal civilian employees. The order protects everyone: gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, heterosexuals, men and women, from discrimination. This order follows one passed
by President Nixon which had banned discrimination on the basis of race, color and
religion. Some speculate that the order might also apply to private firms doing business
with the government.
Uniformed members of the Armed Services are not included. They have very
limited rights under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Sexual orientation is not covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This means
that heterosexuals, bisexuals, gays and lesbians cannot bring bias
complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Gary Bauer of the fundamentalist Christian advocacy group Family
Research Council, called on Congress to rescind the "outrageous"
executive order. He said that the order might affect more than federal
employees, "... possibly anyone who received a federal grant or contract
with the federal government. ... In other words, it will force a special
preference for homosexuality into government and private workplaces." Bauer
appears to be unfamiliar with the executive wording which does not mention
homosexuals or homosexuality. It protects persons of all sexual orientations
According to the Washington Times, House Majority Leader Dick Armey
"Once again this Administration pushes extreme policies on behalf of
a narrow special interest group. ... I call on the president to
reconsider this decision."
Even as early as the mid to late 1990s, polls showed that 70 to 80% of American adults
favored an end to discrimination on the basis of an employees sexual orientation.
Three out of four Americans arenot a narrow special interest group.
|In 1998-JUN House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, (R-TX), and three other
Republicans attempted to obtain support to overturn the executive order. He
we are moving in this country toward a time when there will be no need to grant special
rights and privileges to any group over any other.''
That is a laudable goal. However, it will take a lot of time before racism,
sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc. are eliminated.
|1998-AUG-5: Representative Joel Hefley (R-CO) initiated an amendment
which would have overturned President Clinton's executive order. It was soundly defeated by a vote
of 252 to 176. In an unusual move, 63 Republicans joined 188 Democrats and one
to vote against the measure. This represents the highest level of Republican support for any gay
rights issue up until that time. 161 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted for the amendment. This is the first
time that Congress has voted in favor of a policy of protecting against discrimination
based on sexual orientation. President Clinton responded: |
"I am gratified that the House has defeated an attempt to
overturn my executive order providing a uniform policy to prohibit
discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal civilian
workforce...This vote reflected the values of our nation...The American
people believe in fairness, not discrimination."
Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin
Republicans, a gay-positive group, regarded this vote as a watershed event. He commented:
to the Republican leadership is clear -- stop the gay-bashing now and return to a
positive, unifying agenda going in to this critical election...These were Republicans from
every political stripe saying to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich that this attack on gays has
gone too far...We commend these 63 Republicans who stood up for the principle that
all Americans should be judged on their merits, including gay and lesbian Americans.
real story in this vote is that a growing segment of the Republican Party is emerging.
They are no longer afraid to draw the line on bashing gays and they are putting the
leadership on notice that it will not work. It's bad policy and it's bad politics. That's
the message of this victory. While so many have reported on the anti-gay segment of the
GOP, this vote shows there is a growing segment of the party that is inclusive and opposes
anti-gay discrimination..."This was an unprecedented effort of teamwork in the gay
community, with every national gay organization working together in close coordination
with key Hill staffers, both gay and straight, on both sides of the aisle. This victory
marks the maturing of the gay political movement, and the end of the old one-party
strategy. The gay movement is becoming a strong, bi-partisan movement."
Dale Carpenter, head of the Houston chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans referring to
the anti-gay stance of many leaders in his party, said:
"This [stance] is turning off mainstream Republicans... We do
not send congressmen to Washington to act as religious leaders."
The American Civil Liberties Union and six other parties brought a lawsuit
against Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children on 2000-APR-18. The latter is
a very large non-profit organization, with 8 residential
facilities, 22 outpatient counseling centers, pregnancy counseling, foster care,
adoption programs, etc. They currently deal with 3,300 abused, neglected and
emotionally disturbed children. They are is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist
Convention. 1 59% of their funding comes from the state of Kentucky. The lawsuit states
that the organization committed religious discrimination during 1998-OCT when it fired
Alicia Pedreira because she is a lesbian. Some of the facts in the case:
|She had been hired as an art therapist for teenagers. |
|She revealed her sexual orientation to her manager before being hired. She
was told that her orientation was not an issue as long as she didn't talk
about her private life at work.|
|She received glowing reports and the respect of fellow employees.
|On her own time, she participated in an AIDS walk as a private citizen,
wearing a T-shirt containing a map of Greece with the caption: "Isle
of Lesbos". 2 Someone took a photograph of her
and, without Alicia's knowledge or consent, entered it into a Kentucky State
|Her manager, Jack Cox, and four other employees quit in protest to the
|Spalding University and the University of Louisville?s Kent
School of Social Work withdrew their students from KBHC?s programs.
The KBHC president, Bill Smithwick has allegedly
been told by state officials that the state would likely drop funding rather
than be codefendants in the lawsuit. Smithwick commented
"We don't think
that promoting a lifestyle through the employment of homosexuals is anything
that would be in the best interest of children...This [lawsuit] could have a
very definite impact on faith-based organizations of all types."
On the KBHC web site, Dr. Smithwick is quoted as saying:
of KBHC?s mission is to provide the best role models possible for the children
in care. By employing people who assert their own homosexual behavior, we would
be sending a message of approval of that lifestyle to our youth...If
the commonwealth decides it will no longer contract with Kentucky Baptist Homes
for Children because of this issue, then our state government will be giving
tacit approval to the homosexual lifestyle. For the state to make this move
before we have had our day in court is to deny us due process of law. It is also
sending a message to our most vulnerable citizens that homosexual behavior can
lead to a productive, healthy life when facts clearly state the opposite."
Bruce Green, spokesperson of the conservative Christian Alliance Defense
Fund regards this as "profoundly important" case. He
"The problem here is that you have an agenda-driven lawsuit that is
not based on legal principle It's entirely an unprincipled lawsuit that is
driven by a political agenda." 4
Author's note on the KBHC case:
There is no known evidence that Alicia talked
about her sexual orientation to other employees or to the clients of KBHC.
the KBHC's 3,300 clients, probably about in excess of 100 are gay or lesbian;
some are currently aware of their orientation; others will become aware of their
homosexual orientation as they mature. By hiring only heterosexual employees,
the organization is denying these children gay/lesbian role models.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- The KBHC home page is at: http://www.iglou.com/
- "Alicia Pedreira: Therapist fired for being lesbian," at:
- "Baptist Homes for Children fires lesbian," Kentucky Citizen
Digest, 1999-MAR. Available at: http://www.tffky.org/
- Stuart Shepard, "ACLU vs. Kentucky Baptist Homes," at: http://www.family.org/
- Peter Freiberg, "President's order protects workers. Anti-Gay discrimination
banned in civilian jobs," Washington Blade, 1999-JUN-05, at:
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Hyperlinks last checked: 2000-MAY-12
Latest update: 2009-AUG-07
Author: B.A. Robinson