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Marriage Equality Matters for Workers

by Kate Childs Graham  |  May 09, 2012

President ObamaAcross the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) public workers don’t get a fair shake. In 30 states, they could be fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They experience harassment and discrimination on the job. They earn less than their straight co-workers, and they don’t have equal access to benefits like health care.

In his endorsement today of same-sex marriage, it is clear that Pres. Barack Obama wants to level the playing field for LGBT working families. This afternoon, in an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, he said:

"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee and Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders released a statement applauding President Obama’s message. They said: 

“President Obama’s announcement today recognizes a fundamental American right – that every citizen is entitled to respect and dignity, and the equal protection of our laws.  For too long, lesbian and gay Americans have been denied the right to marry the person they love, raise a family and live as equal citizens in our country.”

Yesterday, North Carolina became the latest in a list of states that have passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. In places where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples are denied the right to marry, working families lack access to pension benefits, Social Security survivor benefits, family health and bereavement leave and immigration of spouses and family.

Because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a measure which President Obama opposes, even in states that allow same-sex marriage or where workers have won domestic partner benefits through union contracts, LGBT families are denied access to more than 1,000 federal protections and benefits.

AFSCME is on the frontlines of the fight for equality in the workplace and in every place. We are making sure LGBT public workers get a fair shot. Join us in the fight.

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