On the books: Laws that hurt us all

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imageJoshua Trey Barnett is the co-creator and editor of GayInAthens.com and the contributing blogger behind Dawg Days, a weekly update from Athens for Project Q Atlanta.

Moe’s Clothing Store is a fictional company and Larry a fictional worker. When Moe discovers that Larry is homosexual, he pulls a Donald Trump and says, “You’re fired.”

And, sadly, employees can be – oh, what is the politically correct word? – terminated because of their sexual orientation in 30 states, including Georgia. And in 38 states, it’s still legal to fire someone based on their gender identity, including Georgia.

Are you with me here? There is no federal law against workplace discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity. That means you can be fired just because you’re gay in many states.

I thought I’d dazzle you with many of the laws that hurt not only the LGBT community, but the American population at large. They include:

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military’s ban on openly gay service members enacted under President Clinton. About 800 specialists with critical skills have been discharged from the U.S. military because of this policy, along with thousands of others. More than 300 of those were linguists.

There are also more than 1,100 federal benefits afforded to married couples that are not afforded to gay couples.

There is no federal hate crimes law on the books, regardless of the fact that LGBT people suffer from hate crimes at similar rates as African Americans and Muslims. There’s also not one in Georgia.

In Georgia, to find a positive, you have to look at what state law doesn’t ban: There are no laws against LGBT individuals adopting children and there is no law that specifically prohibits same-sex couples from adopting. Georgia also allows post-operative transsexuals to amend their sex on their birth certificate.

But that’s about it. Georgia does not have a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no law in Georgia to protect LGBT from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And, of course, Georgia does not permit same-sex couples to marry, nor does it offer domestic partnership benefits to state employees.

What does this mean for you and me? For starters, it means we ought to be out lobbying for laws and rights that bring us up to par with others in this country.

If we can be fired because of who we are, there’s something wrong. Perhaps these are the laws we need to defeat first, before we aim for marriage equality. They may serve as stepping-stones to the greater goal. Once we can establish ourselves as first-class, equal citizens in the eyes of other laws, something similar to civil unions ought to follow suit.

We must always remember where we live and the promise that we’re told every day as Americans – equality.

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