How LGBT Foundations Fight Discrimination in the Workplace

Legislation centered on LGBT rights is once again in the national spotlight this week. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act - referred to as "ENDA" across social media sites - is being considered for passage in Congress. The proposal, considered "one of the last major pieces of LGBT-rights legislation," would ban, at the federal level, workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Many people assume this kind of statute already exists, but, at the federal level, it does not (17 states, along with the District of Columbia, do have fairly strong employment protections for LGBT's on the books). Some believe that this policy issue has implications for LGBT's and their basic rights that are even more profound than what's at stake in the struggle for marriage equality. 

The fact that it's being "considered for passage" in Congress, though, is nothing new. The proposal, in some form, has been formally proposed in every Congress for nearly two decades. It has never had the bicameral and presidential support needed to become law. Now, though, with discrimination against LGBT's being less acceptable to the American public than ever before, those involved in the movement to pass ENDA are feeling confident. The legislation has passed the Senate and has the support of President Obama. While Republican Speaker John Boehner has given a fairly strong signal that the House will not hold an official vote on ENDA, some activists are hoping that increasing political pressure can force his hand.

Freedom to Work, a national organization "committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against LGBT Americans through public education, policy analysis, and legal work," has been leading the charge on behalf of ENDA. Among Freedom to Work's most prominent donors are the David Bohnett Foundation and the Gill Foundation.

One program Freedom to Work has been engaged in since December of 2012 involves running "tests" in which resumes are sent out to various employers in order to bring to light clear instances of discrimination. This specific program has attracted the attention, and the funding, of Bohnett and Gill. Freedom to Work claims that, indeed, discriminatory practices have been uncovered in the course of this work, including by ExxonMobil, one of the most profitable companies in the world.

Gill points to the version of ENDA that was signed into law in the foundation's home state of Colorado in 2007, and then expanded to include transgenders in 2008, as something to replicate nationally. 

With employment discrimination becoming a major, high-profile LGBT issue, and receiving more media attention than ever before, organizations engaged in this cause could find that funders are increasingly interested in becoming involved.