In a bit of big news that makes the U.S. an even better place for sexual minorities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has decided that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is effectively a subset of discrimination by sex, which means it is already illegal under existing civil rights law.
You know what this means?
When the SCOTUS decided that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional—thus giving us nationwide marriage equality—there were still some states where employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (read: you could get fired for being gay) was still legal. The EEOC’s decision means that firing someone for loving the same gender is now especially unlikely to go unpunished.
Is this as binding as a Federal law? Not quite. But it definitely means something.
The ruling — issued without objection from any members of the five-person commission — applies to federal employees’ claims directly, but it also applies to the entire EEOC, which includes its offices across the nation that take and investigate claims of discrimination in private employment.
While only the Supreme Court could issue a definitive ruling on the interpretation, EEOC decisions are given significant deference by federal courts.
Oh, man, I relish the thought of the SCOTUS ruling on this question. I can’t wait to see Scalia throw another tantrum over his colleagues having the gall to do their jobs. (But really he’s throwing a tantrum because the law no longer honors his prejudices as it once did.)
I’m interested in this decision because the commission is recognizing what we in the queer and feminist communities have been saying for decades: homophobia is dependent on sexism. The way society treats LGB people (this particular decision does not affect transgender folks) has everything to do with the way society defines man, and woman, and what it expects of us depending on those labels. Furthermore, any hostility to people of same-sex orientation can be ultimately boiled down to a question of what would happen to an opposite-gender (although “opposite” is a problematic concept where gender is concerned, but just humor me for the sake of argument) person in the same place. Specifically: if my employer fires me because they found out I lick pussy, the question is, would they treat a man this way? Would a man lose his job because he’s attracted to women? Ridiculous, isn’t it? Would a woman have to worry about becoming unemployed because she craves cock? The idea is preposterous. Thus, homophobia (and also biphobia, though when bisexuals experience employment discrimination, it’s usually a matter of homophobia) is a wholly owned subsidiary of sexism.
Anyway. The commission’s decision means that the situation of “lose job because we got married” is increasingly unlikely.
Good. We are on Team Fabulous and I want that to mean something.
(Also, I just created the “proud to be an american” tag for this blog. It’s about time I started saying that.)