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Letter from the Director Regarding Legislature's Attempts to Legalize Discrimination

Fri, April 5, 2019
Letter from the Director Regarding Legislature's Attempts to Legalize Discrimination

Dear LGBTQ Studies Community,

Most people I talk to don’t realize that we can be fired from our jobs for being queer and/or trans.

 I recently gave a public lecture for a group of UT alumni entitled “LGBTQ and You: From the Headlines to Our Families.” There, I mentioned the fact that there is no state or federal protection against discrimination in housing or employment that protects LGBTQ+ people. Many of the attendees expressed disbelief during the Q & A that followed, and one retired lawyer came up to me after the talk to ask me if I was really sure that you could be fired for being gay. As a longtime LGBTQ researcher and activist, I’m pretty sure: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which seeks to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, has been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994. It has never passed.

This month, a clutch of bills proposed in the Texas Legislature aim to make us even more vulnerable. Just this week, SB17, which purports to be a “religious freedom” bill but actually ensures that anyone with “religious objections” can refuse to serve LGBTQ+ people at their place of business, passed the Senate, an ominous marker. The bill makes it legal, for example, for a doctor to turn a queer and/or trans person away just because of who they are. Another jewel in the crown of hate and discrimination is SB15, which takes aim at the cities in Texas that have municipal-level ordinances prohibiting discrimination—including Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Texans passed those non-discrimination ordinances, but Sen. Brandon Creighton, the bill’s sponsor, claimed to speak for “Texas values” when he removed specific language that would have protected existing ordinances as well as prohibiting future municipal efforts to prevent LGBTQ Texans from being denied employment or fired.

Discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees is a well-documented phenomenon. In one study, two fictitious resumes were sent out to 1700 entry-level job openings. The only difference between the two was that one mentioned having been involved in an LGBTQ organization in college. The resumes without the “gay marker” were called back at a rate of 11.2%; those with the marker were called back at 7.2%. The “callback gap” was significantly greater than the national average in Texas. Employment discrimination is even more prevalent for our most vulnerable, especially trans people of color. And it amplifies the harm of racial and gender discrimination, which is also well-known in labor market research.

The LGBTQ Studies Program at The University of Texas at Austin condemns these bills and others like them. The research of our academic experts on LGBTQ+ issues shows again and again that homophobic and transphobic legislation--even laws that don’t ultimately pass--create a toxic conversation that impacts our communities, especially our youth. As educators, we are dedicated to helping all students, including LGBTQ+ students, imagine a future in which they can thrive.

Lisa Moore

 

Lisa L. Moore   she/her/hers

Director, LGBTQ Studies Program
Archibald A. Hill Professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies
The University of Texas at Austin

Mailing Address: 204 W. 21st Street, Stop B5000, Austin, TX 78712

 

 

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