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Benefits For Homosexuals In The Workplace Essay, Research Paper

English 111

Paper #4

Benefits for Homosexuals in the Workplace

For many years now minority groups have been fighting to get equal representation in high paying jobs and to be treated like everyone else if they are hired. The minority group that I wish to focus on is homosexuals. Many gays believe that they are being treated unfairly by companies that do not offer domestic partner benefits and other fringe benefits that are offered to heterosexual workers and their spouses. They argue that their ?partners? are in effect their spouses and should be subject to the same treatment as heterosexual couples. On the other hand many believe that domestic partnership is not the same as marriage and to give gays domestic partner benefits would be giving them special treatment. There are also those religious groups that believe homosexuality is wrong in god?s eyes and to give gays domestic partner benefits would be endorsing or condoning sin. Many companies that do have domestic partner benefit plans argue by having workers of different backgrounds they can raise sales in the diverse marketplace and attract and keep workers of good training and skill. And by ignoring the needs of gay and lesbian workers they risk losing talented workers, raising their recruitment and training costs, and lowering employee moral and productivity (Open the corporate closet).

There are a couple of reasons why the issue of giving gays equal rights in the workplace has not been addressed in the past. First, the human-relations people in a lot of companies don?t spend much time thinking about gay issues. Andrew Sherman of The Segal Company says, ?my sense has been that HR people do not have a lot of knowledge about gay workplace issues?(Open the corporate closet). Professionals in other companies have made similar statements such as ?most people don?t know how they really feel about homosexuality until they are confronted with it?(Open?). These problems among other things have lead to gays being overlooked for a long time. The second reason why gay rights have not been addressed is because gay employees been outspoken in their pursuit to have something done. There are many gay workers that hide their homosexuality from co-workers for fear of being ridiculed. This can be seen in a 1992 survey in Philadelphia that found that 76 percent of gay men chose to stay in the closet at work because they feared they would be the victims of job discrimination (The Corporate Closet). If gay workers want the same benefits and respect that their co-workers get they will have to push the issue of equality to all those who will listen.

Today more than ever human resources professionals are addressing issues of gay employment, not because they feel that everyone should be equal but because they have to. This revelation has come about because more and more gay employees are revealing their sexual orientation on the job. With this record number of gays coming out at work, human resources people are forced to address gay issues in order to reduce conflict between homosexuals and their heterosexual co-workers. Another reason why gay issues are now being addressed is because more gays are willing to file discrimination claims against their companies if their civil rights are violated. For example last year in California there were 159 complaints filed with the Labor Commissioner alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, making it the third most complaint filed (Open?). By doing this gays are now beginning to receive more benefits but they must continue in their fight if they want to be seen as truly equal.

There are many companies that have become sympathetic to the needs of their homosexual employees. Many of these companies have run into trouble over the volatile issue of domestic partner benefits. Companies such as the Walt Disney Company that have domestic partner benefits in effect, because of this the Southern Baptist Convention approved a boycott on the Disney theme parks and all of its affiliates. ?The Disney boycott came a year after Baptists threatened a boycott if the company refused to change its anti-Christian and anti-family policies?(Christianity Today pg.72). The Southern Baptists became even more enraged when the Disney owned television station ABC aired an episode of the show Ellen in which the main character revealed she was a lesbian. There are mixed emotions in the Baptist ranks if the boycott is the right thing to do. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Tom Elliff, says that ?this is not about bringing Disney down, it?s about bringing Southern Baptists up to the standards of God?(Christianity Today). While Elliff feels that the boycott will bring Southern Baptists together, former Southern Baptist Convention president Jim Henery claims ?this will drive people away, not bring them to the church?(Christianity Today). After placing a boycott on the Disney Company, Baptists followed it up with a resolution admonishing other companies that provided domestic partner benefits to homosexuals. The resolution declared that ?businesses that recognize the moral legitimacy of homosexual relationships ? are rejecting God?s true revelation regarding the sinfulness of homosexual conduct and the unique sanctity of heterosexual marriage?(Christianity Today).

In the city of Philadelphia, two Domestic Partner bills were proposed that would give homosexuals domestic partner benefits, which would be beneficial to many gay partners in the area. But the Archbishop of Philadelphia believes they are dangerous and deceptive. He claims they are dangerous because ?this legislation communicates to the whole of our society, but especially our youth, that extra-marital relationships are the moral and legal equivalent of marriage and the family. It endeavors to nullify the fact that committed marriages and stable families constitute the foundation on which a lasting and civilized society is built?(Domestic Partners Testimony). He believes them to be deceptive because they use the misleading category of domestic partnership to ?protect and promote homosexual relationships?(Domestic Partners Testimony). He also goes on to say that the laws would legally recognize relationships that he and the overwhelming majority of citizens of Philadelphia consider to be immoral.

There are many companies, such as American Airlines, that are targeting the homosexual market. In June of 1997 the head of the Southern Baptist ethics agency Richard Land, and five other conservative Christian leaders petitioned American Airlines in a full-page ad in The Washington Times and Dallas-Fort Worth area newspapers to abandon policies that promote homosexual behavior (Strode par. 2). In the letter, the leaders express opposition to what they say are policies ?that give preferential treatment to homosexuals? and ?marketing programs that advance the anti-family agenda of militant homosexuals and sponsor events where dangerous and even illegal activities occur?(Strode par. 3). Some examples that they gave of this were American Airlines officially sponsored homosexual circuit parties that, according to The Advocate, a homosexual magazine, are AIDS fund-raisers in various cities that include open, illegal drug use and illicit sex (Strode par. 5), targeting the homosexual market, including providing discounts for domestic partners, and contributing to homosexual organizations. In response to the letter American Airlines issued this statement, ?we are very sorry that these groups disagree with our company?s policy of treating all customers and employees with kindness and respect?(Strode par. 10). The letter also goes on to say that American Airlines practice of discounts for homosexuals ?discriminates against millions of traditional families struggling to raise children on tight budgets that, unlike affluent homosexuals, truly need discounted fares?(Strode par. 10). It then goes on to report statistics for a polling firm called Overlooked Opinions that says the average homosexual male household income in the United States is $51,624 and for lesbians it is $42,755. While according to the U.S. Census Bureau the average for all households is $36,520.

Domestic partner benefits are becoming more prevalent today and I see no sign of companies slowing down in joining the ranks of those who offer them, but as long as these benefits are around there will probably be someone there to oppose them.

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