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Progress: A Ban on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

(The Verge) – The Senate approved a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.  This bill marks the first time in this nation’s history that it has been voted to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in America’s nondiscrimination law.
Despite Republican opposition, the issue was passed 64 to 32, including ten Republican votes, according to a New York Times article by Jeremy W. Peters.  It also stated that opponents of the bill, known as the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, cited religious freedoms as the foundation of their argument, claiming that nondiscrimination based on sexuality in the workplace put religious freedoms at risk, despite the bill’s exemption of religious institutions and stipulations within the bill to protect religious rights.
With the religious protections offered in the bill, the argument of the opposition is rendered moot.  According to the article, the bill directly states that religious institutions, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, are excluded from the authority of the bill, and includes a provision stating that no federal government can take action against religious institutions for not adhering to it, such as denying them tax-exempt status or licenses.
In a nation that prides itself on freedom and equality, why should one group’s freedom be of more importance than another group’s?
“One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do,” President Obama said regarding the passing of the bill. “Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.”
LGBT rights have been at the forefront of the media of late, especially because of the recent legalization of gay marriage in several states. And with the progress being made, it is likely that that will not change any time soon.  With every state that legalizes gay marriage, with every discussion of equal rights, as a nation we move one step closer to truer equality.  However, equality is far from a reality; the fight is not over.  Freedom and equal rights exist only for a few in this country — for the “majority”, which in America means white, middle-aged men.  There is still a great deal of progress to be made not only for LGBT rights, but also for the freedom and equality of all minorities.
According to the Harvard Summer School website, in a 2010 study, women on average make 77 cents to the dollar that men make.  In a world where powerful women, such as Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, have such a significant impact on society, it is shocking to think that women are still being oppressed and are considered inferior to men in the workplace.
While it is quite clear that strides have been made in the area of equal rights for the LGBT community, there is no question that there is still a great deal of work to be done, not only for LGBT rights, but for all individuals who are denied their rights.
The day that it is unthinkable for some to have rights while others go without, the day that we do not look down on our peers for their differences but celebrate them, is the day where we will have truly achieved equality.  It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that this triumphs.  If they don’t, who will? Stand tall America.

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