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LGBT officials seek equality in the workplace

BY LAUREN COFFEY | NOVEMBER 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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While support of same-sex marriage may seem to be a primary factor for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer [LGBTQ] community when choosing which presidential candidate to support, local and national officials say that isn’t exactly the case.

The LGBTQ community has been focused on another pressing issue for a much longer time: workplace discrimination.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been proposed in Congress every year since 1974, with the exception of 1994. The act strives to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A person can be fired for being gay in 29 states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The bill has been to and fro in Congress as a piece of legislation,” said Casey Pick, the programs director for the Log Cabin Republicans. “It’s the oldest issue in the community. Marriage is a vital issue, but the LGBT community is weighing the same issues as their straight neighbors.”

Judicial retention and the legalization of same-sex marriage also rise to the top as issues of major concern for the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community and officials are all trying to achieve one common goal: equality for the LGBT community.

“Our generation grew up reading about the civil-rights movement in the ’50s and the ’60s of African-Americans, and we look in that in the history book and be like ‘Why was this ever an issue?’ ”

Quentin Hill, the current chairman of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual ,Transgender, Allied Union said in an interview with another Daily Iowan staffer. “We sit here and look at the pictures of people protesting civil rights, and we think that’s the dumbest thing ever, and I think when we look at the terms in other human-rights movements, we seem to forget that.”

Others do not agree with same-sex marriage and strive to preserve what they say is the model of the traditional family — marriage between a man and a woman.

“Family Research Council believes, and social science has now clearly demonstrated, that children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage,” stated the mission statement of the Family Research Council. “Indeed, the data demonstrate that adults also thrive in this same family structure.”

Currently, six states allow same-sex couples to be married, as well as the District of Columbia. The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009.

Many citizens were outraged by the decision, and in 2010, they voted in a judicial-retention election to remove three of the seven justices who voted unanimously to legalize same-sex marriage. Justice David Wiggins served on the Iowa Supreme Court during the Varnum v. Brien decision that legalized same-sex marriage, and he is up for retention on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“What the judges did was uphold equal protection,” said Molly Tafoya, the communications director for One Iowa. “The judges did their job, and they did it well. We can’t tell anyone who to vote for, but I would tell people to get educated.”

Officials said while the LGBTQ community typically does lean toward Democratic nominees, but that does not rule out voting for Republicans.

“We’re a very, very diverse community,” said Jeff Bennet, a University of Iowa associate professor of communications. “Gay people do vote for Romney … With Romney ,you do have a more Republican nation, but it’s less clear what his plan would be [to further gay rights] if he got elected.”

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was formerly the governor of Massachusetts — the first state to allow gay marriage. His current stance calls for support of the traditional family model, which he defines on his website as a union between one man and one woman. According to his website, he plans to champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between a man and woman if elected.

President Obama said he firmly supports same-sex marriage. He formally endorsed same-sex marriage earlier this year.

While public opinion may be slow to support same-sex marriage, some believe one day all 50 states will legalize it.

“We’re on the right side of history,” Tafoya said. “A majority of Americans now support gay marriage. It’s no longer a partisan issue. There is no doubt in my mind we will embrace full equality one day.”


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