Over the past decade, many Americans have bravely “come” out to their friends, family, and employers. However, at times this bravery has caused shattered relationships, “disownership” by family, and higher rates of unemployment for LGBT. This is especially true for Latinos and other minorities in our country. Currently nearly 1.4 million LGBT Latinos were identified in 2013. Data from the Movement Advancement Project shows that LGBT Latinos are at a 14% unemployment rate compared to their non-LGBT counterparts, 28% live in extreme poverty vs. 5% of their counterparts, and up to nearly 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
President Obama has supported a recently passed Senate Bill S. 815, which prevents employers from discriminating against LGBT employees. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was proposed on April 25, 2013 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for the 113th Congress. The ENDA bill would essentially add to the Civil Rights act of 1964 and 1990, where it is currently illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of Age, Sex, Religion, Race, Color, or National Origin. ENDA would also include “Gender Identity” and “Sexual Orientation” to that list.
CNN Contributor Peter Sprigg suggests that passage of the ENDA act would restrict employer’s freedoms under the first amendment, and that although he admits there is an exception for religious institutions, it would allow for “…possible increase in ‘sexualization’ of the workplace”, and that it would cause “reverse discrimination” for anyone who disapproves of “homosexual behavior”. However Sprigg makes the assumption that LGBT choose to be the way they are, and are not born that way. However research has demonstrated that even young children may identify as transgender and that in many cases this is inborn rather than conditioned. Many lesbian and gay men and women have attempted so called “Conversion Therapy” which is a painful process to “transform” the participant from “gay” to “straight”. However many of these “treatments” can permanently damage a person, and in many cases, lead to suicide.
One must recall a time when race in this country as a hotly contested issue, the actions of those in the community with well-known names as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Cesar Chavez, helped to usher in the Civil Rights act of 1964. Today, we look at activists such as Harvey Milk, and local representatives such as Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Joe Saunders of Florida, and Jared Polis of Colorado as proposing local legislation as well. Additionally, the advent of the Internet, blogs, social media, and viral videos help showcase the stories of thousands of LGBT Latinos and their struggles with poverty, rejection, and in some extreme cases, fear for their lives in being who they are.
From an economic perspective, ENDA’s benefits may outweigh the costs. If employers are discriminating against LGBT, they are condemning valuable and diverse talent, and encouraging continued poverty. By allowing diversity, we are able to prevent groupthink in our businesses and create more innovative products. This gives businesses insights into a global regions culture, values, and allows for a competitive advantage. One well-known social media company created by Joel Simkhai, an openly gay man, called Grindr, has over 4 million users in 192 countries and has grown substantially. The fact is that many in the community are still afraid of being chastised, thus many innovators may be LGBT and the public is not aware of it. By helping lift more LGBT Latinos out of poverty it grants more opportunities for continuing education, entrepreneurship, and investment in local communities through income tax, increased spending, and charity involvement.
Although it appears that many Latinos are more traditionally conservative, the tides may be shifting. Recently, Pope Francis made a declaration regarding LGBT: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” It is safe to say that society is beginning to become enlightened. Additionally, many Latinos have expressed favorable attitudes towards LGBT rights in many instances. As laws such as the ENDA are still waiting to be passed, it is important that we speak up and that we voice our support to your local representatives and Congressmen today. Many of us are realizing that we are all Gods children, and as such all deserve the right to live free in this great country, and hopefully one day, the globe.
Neil Vegoinre is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant. Neil grew up in South Florida, but after graduating from Broward College with a degree in Mathematics, he moved to Orlando. Today, he is an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando studying Business and Marketing, and also works as a Managerial Accounting Tutor. In the future, Neil aspires to be an entrepreneur, and a force for good in his community, and to continue to be active in political thought and discourse.