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Religious Tolerance logo

Ending employment discrimination based
on sexual orientation and gender identity

Background, cultural implications,
quotes, oppression, definitions, etc.

Sponsored link.

Cultural implications:

Caution: The webmaster is editorializing here, & probably offending everyone.

The bill has exposed a fundamental division among the American public. Many adults fall into one of two solitudes:

bulletThose who consider LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) topics as behaviors that people do, that are intrinsically disordered, immoral, chosen and readily changed. They consider homophobia and transphobia (discrimination against sexual minorities) as noble acts, and part of their system of traditional values, inspired by revelation from God.


bulletThose who consider LGBT topics as orientations and identities that people feel. All are healthy, normal, and natural for a minority of adults, morally neutral, unchosen, and always -- or essentially always -- fixed. It is homophobia and transphobia that they view as profoundly immoral. They largely base their beliefs on the findings of human sexuality research, and personal experience learned from LGBT persons, or from being a LGBT person.

It is difficult to conceive of two positions that are so diametrically opposed. At least one of the two solitudes is dead wrong about the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Essentially no discussion or debate is occurring between the two sides. Deep dialogue between does occur, but is generally limited to private exchanges between two individuals. Positions otherwise are quite hardened, largely because the two groups' foundational beliefs about the nature of truth, sexual orientation, and identity are in total conflict, and non-negotiable.

In an ideal world, constructive dialogue between the two solitudes could result in a cooperative research program that would study the true nature of sexual orientation and identity. Ideally, much of the conflict would evaporate, as the two solitudes harmonized their differences. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. Any resolution would require at least one side to fundamentally modify its understanding of reality and truth. That is probably too much to hope for. Most people's allowable rate of change on ethical, moral, and particularly sexual matters is extremely limited.

Forgive me, but in moments of weakness, I sometimes wonder whether both solitudes prefer that the conflict not be resolved, and are trying to prolong it. It certainly generates revenue in large quantities.


bulletForty years ago, ... it was entirely possible for an employer in any state to legally fire workers because of their sexual orientation ... that remains true today in 30 states. Bob Packwood, Miami Herald, 2009-JUL. 1

bullet"The fact remains -- in 38 states, you can be fired from your job because you are transgender." Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF). 2

bullet"KBHC is committed to fostering an environment that daily affirms the professional, personal, and spiritual development of our staff. That environment includes a safe work place, an appreciation of multicultural backgrounds, and a commitment to ethical integrity." Excerpt from The Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children's mission statement. They fired an employee because she is a lesbian.

bullet"The single most important thing [gay and lesbian] people can do is to come out, and one of the obstacles to coming out is the fear that you're gonna lose your job." Representative Barney Frank (D-MA)


Over the past two centuries, a series of moral and ethical battles have been fought in North America to end discrimination and oppression of of people on the basis of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The conflicts included oppression of people on the basis of their:

bulletReligion, including long-term genocidal attacks on Native Americans, mass murder of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), and oppression of Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Wiccans, other Neo-Pagans, and others.
bulletRace, including the ending of human slavery, internment of Japanese during World War II, a more recent lessening of racial segregation and discrimination, and an end to state bans of inter-racial marriage.
bulletGender, including permitting women to enter various professions, allowing them to vote and run for office, giving them access to contraception, access to abortion, and expose them to lower levels of official sexism, except among some conservative religious denominations where they are often prohibited from ordination.

In 1969, the Stonewall Riots in New York City's Greenwich Village, triggered a major drive for equal rights for lesbians and gays. Later, equality for bisexuals, was added. This introduced a fourth conflict over:

bulletSexual orientation, including allowing civil unions or marriage for loving committed same-sex couples, and legalization of same-sex private sexual activity. Persons of all sexual orientations were given protection from hate crimes.

Finally, in the early 21st century, growing attention has been given to a fifth conflict:

bulletGender identity, including the recognition of gender reassignment surgery for transsexuals, and protection from hate crimes for persons of all sexual identities: cisgendered persons, transgender persons, and transsexuals.

The latest move is the creation of a bill in Congress to end employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although some states have passed this type of legislation, they remain in a minority.

Definitions of sexual orientation:

The vast majority of religious liberals and mainliners, therapists, human sexuality researchers, etc. define sexual orientation by the gender of persons to whom an individual is sexually attracted:
bulletBisexuals are attracted to both men and women, although not necessarily to the same degree.
bulletHomosexuals are attracted only to the same gender.
bulletHeterosexuals are attracted only to the opposite gender.

However, many social and religious conservatives define sexual orientation in terms of of behavior. It is what people do, not what they are. It is something that one chooses, not discovers. Conservatives often ignore bisexuality, and classify people as either homosexual or heterosexual depending upon their recent sexual activity.

A few fundamentalist Christian groups define sexual orientation in a unique way. They include:

bulletThe three generally acknowledged sexual orientations;

bulletThe two sexual identities;

bullet About two dozen or more paraphilias -- "a family of persistent, intense fantasies, aberrant urges, or behaviors ..." involving human sexuality and including bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, hebephilia, ephebophilia, etc. and

bulletA few additional behaviors like incest and prostitution. 3 More details

Needlessly to say, debate, discussion and dialog are essentially impossible if:

bulletMost people recognize three sexual orientations in terms of feelings, while

bulletA minority recognizes two orientations based on behavior, and

bulletA few groups recognize over 30 orientations.

The result is mass confusion over the bases over which individuals are protected by hate crimes and employment discrimination laws.

Definition of gender identity:

For the vast majority of adults, the gender that they sense themselves as being match their genetic gender. A person who regards themselves as a woman will have a female genetic gender; a person who identifies as a male will have a male genetic gender. This is called being "cis-gendered."

However, for transgender persons, who form a very small minority, a mismatch occurs. Some describe their feelings as being a woman trapped in a man's body, or vice versa. The internal conflict that most transgender persons feel is unbelievably intense. Many end their pain by committing suicide before they are 30 years of age. Therapy, prayer, and other methods of harmonizing their feelings with their genetic gender have a zero or essentially zero success rate.

Some transgender persons, often called transsexuals, enter into gender reassignment surgery and medication programs to change their appearance to match their perceived gender. If carefully managed, this has a very high success rate.

Again, there is a difference between many religious and social conservatives and the rest of the population. Take the case of a male to female transsexual (MTF). This is a person with a male genetic gender and a female gender identity. Many conservatives consider the person to have remain a male even after gender reassignment surgery, hormone medication, and years of living as a woman. Almost everyone else regards the individual as a female. This conflict produces obvious problems:

bulletRe: marriage: Is a MTF transsexual who marries a man entering into a same-sex marriage or an opposite-sex marriage? Conservatives would consider it a same-sex marriage; others would view it as an opposite-sex marriage.
bulletRe: sexual orientation: Is a MTF transsexual who is sexually attracted to a male to be regarded as a gay or heterosexual? Conservatives would consider both the person's genetic gender and behavior, and call him gay if he acted on the attraction, and a heterosexual if he did not. Others would consider her to be a heterosexual.

Legislative activity:

Many Americans assume that persons of different sexual orientations, whether heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian, are protected against job discrimination. Not so. There are state laws against employment discrimination on the basis of gender, race, and other grounds. But most states do not have a law protecting the jobs of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, based on their sexual orientation. Even fewer protect cis-gendered persons, transgender persons and transsexuals on the basis of their gender identity.

Various unsuccessful bills have been introduced at the federal level since 1994 to safeguard the jobs of persons of all sexual orientations. The 2007 version originally added protection on the basis of gender identity. However this provision was later deleted in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain its passage under a Republican administration. Gender identity protection was restored to the 2009 version.

So far, none of the bills have become law. However, the 2009 version may yet succeed.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Bob Packwood, "Include gays, lesbians in anti-bias act," Miami Herald, 2009-JUL-21, at:
  2. "Inclusive ENDA Introduced! Urge Your Senators to Support Crucial Legislation," Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, 2009- AUG, at:
  3. "Paraphilia," Wikipedia, downloaded 2007-APR-18, at:

Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Challenges > ENDA > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-AUG-07
Latest update: 2011-SEP-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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