For over thirty years organized labor and the LGBT have been walking hand-in-hand to push for equality.
Last year I wrote a labor history story called “Labor of Love: How The American Labor Movement Is Securing LBGT Equality” which focused on the role that labor unions played in pushing for equality.
“The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America. After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies. By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.
As you are already well aware, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. This ruling will force states like Texas, to accept and recognize all marriages.
Labor unions from across the country applauded this decision and reminded us of their role in helping to make the dream of equality, a reality.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks a truly historic day in America. While there is still work to do to secure economic and social justice for LGBT Americans, the court’s ruling is a major victory for everyone who believes in equality,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Same-sex couples will now have equal access to marriage licenses like any other couple. This ruling is a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”
“The United Steelworkers applaud the court for upholding the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law,” said The United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and International Vice President Fred Redmond. “This is a historic day, and we are proud especially for our LGBT members. This victory confirms the principles of our union that regardless of the color of a person’s skin, regardless of religion or nationality, and no matter who a person loves, discrimination has no place in our union or in our society.”
“Today is a momentous day. Together as a nation we took a dramatic step toward the ideals of equality and freedom. Today, brave Americans who were unafraid to stand up and organize for their basic rights proved once again the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice,” stated Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
“AFGE applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex couples across the country have a Constitutional right to marry,” said American Federation of Government Employees National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “This was the right decision for the country and the right decision for everyone who believes in the principles of fairness, equality, and basic human dignity.
“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, AFGE represents people across the social and political spectrum, including many LGBT members. Just two weeks ago, AFGE was proud to march for the first time in the 2015 Capital Pride Parade – the only labor union to participate. For years, our AFGE Pride Program has been working toward fair treatment and equality for LGBT employees in the government workplace,” concluded Thomas.
The National Education Association and its 22 state-level affiliates, were a part of a broad-based labor coalition with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief, arguing that state discrimination against same sex couples deprives such couples of an array of economic benefits and legal rights, and deprives them and their children of fundamental dignity, benefits and rights that other couples and their families enjoy.
“Today the Supreme Court has taken a monumental step forward in our national journey toward a more perfect union by making marriage equality the law in every state of our great nation,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “On behalf of our members—and the students they serve—we applaud the court’s historic decision, which will end discrimination against same sex couples, place them on equal footing with other families and safeguard all of our children.”
“We know that today’s ruling will make a tremendous difference both to the dignity and personal and economic well-being of same sex families and to the dignity and personal well-being of their children as well as others who have been bullied and fearful due to their sexual identity. We applaud the Supreme Court and the many advocates whose work resulted in today’s historic decision,” concluded Eskelsen García.
For some this decision hit very close to home. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers is also one of the few openly gay, national union leaders.
“From Loving to Windsor to today, love has won. As people start seeing one another’s real aspirations and dreams for all our families and our communities, as well as for ourselves, we see that the arc of history does bend toward justice,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“And while this is a day of celebration, there is more work to do in our fight for full equality. As a gay woman and union leader, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my union—an ally in the struggle for rights and a shield from unfair discrimination in the workplace,” said Weingarten.
The freedom to marry does not mean that the LGBT community has reached full equality. The persecution and discrimination of LGBT members still runs rampant in many parts of our great nation.
While I celebrated this decision, in solidarity with the dozens of my personal friends and family who are gay, I know that we still have a long way to go. The suicide rate of LBGT teens is almost 30% higher than non-LGBT teens. This is in large part to the persecution and bullying that LGBT teens must endure as they grow and find themselves. Most states have protections from bullying based on race or ethnicity, but very few have protections for the LGBT members.
We also have work to do to ensure that LGBT workers cannot be discriminated against in applying for a job, and cannot be arbitrarily fired just for being gay. Unfortunately too few states have protections for LGBT members from workplace discrimination.
“From talking with LGBT members throughout the country, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place. Without these protections, same-sex couples who have the right to marry in their home state will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments based simply on who they are. We will continue the fight forward,” concluded Weingarten.