Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Influence of the Private Sector on Public Policy

Tonight, I attended a work event in which we launched an new initiative to get the private sector to explicitly and publicly support the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and Marriage Equality in NY State. Throughout the country as well as state of New York, private business is ahead of public policy when it comes to workplace protections on the basis of gender expression and identity. Many companies include these in their EEO policies, yet at a National level there is no workplace protection and an individual can be fired based on their gender expression and identity. At the state level, 13 states and the District of Columbia offer protections with an additional 130+ local jurisdictions. Below is an adaptation of a portion of my remarks from last evening.

We know that our elected leaders respond to their constituencies: a single person, a non-profit agency providing social services, faith communities or the private sector, businesses.

It is not uncommon for public policy to be driven by the private sector – we see this in companies who with no legal obligation chose to include gender expression and identity in their EEO policies; companies such as Google and Barclay’s who will reimburse their LGBT employees for the healthcare benefit tax that they are subject to when accessing Domestic Partner benefits, unlike their married heterosexual coworkers. Companies are doing what they can to level the so called playing field for their LGBT employees by taking these steps. We also see companies go to Washington, DC to testify before Congressional Committees, like Pfizer on the Uniting American Families Act, recognizing how the inequalities in the law impact their LGBT employees and sign statements of support for bills such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act because of the importance of these pieces of legislation. We know that the private sector supports our issues because in the instance of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act , many already include these in your EEO policy.

Private sector support for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act will help to push our elected officials to support the legislation that will serve to eliminate the gaps in protection on the basis of gender identity and expression across New York State. Companies are already providing these protections, we just need to let our elected officials know where this support is. The same goes for Marriage Equality and while we know that a company cannot extend all the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage, we do know that employers recognize the unfair burden placed on same-sex couples when they are denied the right to marry and are doing what they can to lessen this burden.

As always, we continue to push for equality and justice for LGBT New Yorkers.

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