How Effective Are Laws Against Sexual-Orientation Discrimination?

Though Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act provides comprehensive nationwide protection from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender and religion, adding sexual orientation to that list remains a controversial topic across the United States. While 20 of the 50 U.S. states offer full legal protections and local ordinances offer some protections in 15 of the 30 states without state-wide protection, many legislators are shying away from extending legal protections further. With an estimated 33 percent of the U.S. population opposing legal protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and other sexual minorities, even politicians who privately support such legislation have avoided saying so publicly.

While wage studies comparing the wages of openly gay/bisexual men have consistently shown that they tend to make far less than straight men doing the same work, there is still widespread skepticism over whether such discrimination exists. Raw wages for sexual minorities tend to be lower than wages for straight people despite the fact that 1) gay men tend to be more highly educated on average, and B) gay men are more likely to live in urban areas where wages are higher. Much of this discrimination occurs in occupations that are male-dominated, including management, construction, and production. Though wage discrimination for lesbians is not as clear, lesbians, like gay men, are more likely to be highly educated than straight women. For both gay men and lesbians, however, the lack of legal protections in many states means far less job security and greater instability in their economic situations.

To read more, check out my new contribution to the Huffington Post.


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