June 26, 2020 - by Carly Maga
As Pride Month comes to an end – likely the most unconventional Pride Month in history – there are still many aspects of LGBTQ+ inclusion to celebrate, even while physically distanced. The biggest example is the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that protects the LGBTQ+ community from getting fired due to their sexual or gender identity. To learn more about the triumphs in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, as well as how much farther we have to go, ExpertFile spoke to Dr. Genevieve Weber, Associate Professor of Counseling and Mental Health Professions.
ExpertFile: What are the mental or health repercussions on LGBTQ individuals from the ways homophobia persists in society today?
Genevieve Weber: Owing to minority stress which results from perceptions of and experiences with anti-gay discrimination, LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of harmful health issues including depression, anxiety, suicide, substance use, homelessness, unemployment, and other medical conditions often related to limited access or inequitable medical care.
EF: How significant was the recent Supreme Court ruling about LGBTQ+ employment rights?
GW: The Supreme Court ruling is an unprecedented measure that protects LGBTQ+ individuals – both in terms of workplace protection but also as mental health protection. In particular, policy that honors, protects and celebrates LGBTQ+ identities is viewed as a factor that might reduce the minority stress caused by overt and covert anti-gay behaviors and experiences.
The coming-out process looks different from person to person and this often has to do with how they perceive the level of safety within their families, social networks, school climates, and workplace settings. One might choose to be out in one domain, and not in the other and that is okay, owing the reality of risk associated with coming out in an unwelcoming environment. The passing of this ruling has now eliminated any overt anti-gay firing, withholding of promotions, or disciplinary actions on the basis of sexual and gender identity. Of course, covert discrimination will still exist in the workplace but can be pursued legally.
This ruling has so much meaning for LGBTQ+ people across the lifespan; current employees have a greater sense of safety and protection; children and adolescents can pursue their vocational dreams without fears of being excluded, fired, or not promoted on the basis of their sexual and gender identities; and older adults who might be approaching or in retirement can reflect on the protection now afforded to the younger generations fulfilling their previous roles. Across the board, this is highly beneficial to the strength, cohesiveness, health and overall well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. We now see basic civil rights of LGBTQ+ consistently upheld across our country.
EF: What are some ideas or elements of this ruling that you’re seeing people misunderstand?
GW: Although this moves the LGBTQ+ community forward in so many ways, there are limitations to this ruling. We might continue to see anti-gay discrimination by landlords and businesses including restaurants and hotels. Federally-funded organizations such as universities and colleges, hospitals, and adoption agencies might also continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity. There is more work to be done to ensure federal protection across all settings or LGBTQ+ people.