Gay Rights in workplace: the evolving corporate response

Published: May 16, 2014

In 1970, the Civil Service Commission sought to fire a gay postal workeron the basis of "moral incompetency". He successfully beat back the effort, inspiring a generation to fight for workplace reform. Corporations back then took a dim view of homosexuality, perceiving gay and lesbian people to be unstable and untrustworthy – not exactly the mark of a rising employee.

How times have changed. In recent years, companies such as Apple,Orbitz and Google have played an active role in driving social change. Business has evolved from open hostility to tacit acceptance, fromsupporting internal LGBT employee groups to taking leadership roles in stopping anti-gay legislation and calling for federal workplace protections.

On 17 May 1990, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Established in 2005, the International Day Against Homophobia – which in 2009 became theInternational Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (abbreviated as Idahot) – celebrates that day. As it enters its 10th year, a record 120 countries are participating, sharing a goal to "inspire, support and document" worldwide actions around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual (LGBTI) rights.

But 81 countries – with 2.8 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population – continue to discriminate based on sexual and gender diversity, according to Idahot. While it’s clear that being safely and successfully "out and proud" in the workplace is still a work in progress, it’s also worth looking at how far we’ve come.

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