By Simone Novorr, a Spring 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
The Center for American Progress (CAP) this week released a report, “Whose Family Do We Truly Value?”, highlighting the need for policy solutions that strengthen worker protections to address a particularly economically disadvantaged group: African-American LGBT people and their families. The report notes that workplace inequality for LGBT people affects their economic security and puts them at a greater risk of living in poverty.
This demographic is hardest hit since nondiscrimination laws are almost nonexistent in the South where the majority of LGBT African Americans live. While the national unemployment rate is a little less than 8 percent, the unemployment rate for African American LGBT workers is a staggering 15 percent. Moreover, African American same-sex couples experience poverty rates twice as high as their heterosexual peers.
A widespread misconception persists that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is already legally barred in the workplace, but in reality this discrimination is completely legal in a majority of states.
Despite passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the gender wage gap endures and is particularly large for women of color and LBT women. According to a joint report called A Broken Bargain by CAP, the Movement Advancement Project, and the Human Rights Campaign, a “double-gap” exists, ensuring that women in same-sex or gender nonconforming partnerships earn much less than opposite-sex partnerships.
In November, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would federally prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of an employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The economic barriers faced by LGBT people, particularly African Americans, underscore the importance and urgency of workplace protections for these communities.
To read more about these economic disparities, read CAP’s full report here.