May 23, 2013
By Scottie Thomaston
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday rejected pro-LGBT amendments to the “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, and as EqualityOnTrial noted yesterday, four Democrats also opposed inclusion of the amendments. Activists reacted with anger to the exclusion, with some suggesting they were shocked. The amendments were an attempt to protect members of binational same-sex couples from facing deportation, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars recognition of legal same-sex marriages and sponsorship of spouses relies on the definition imposed by DOMA.
The chairman of that committee, Senator Leahy (D-VT) had introduced two pro-LGBT amendments: one is the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would create the category of “permanent partner” in immigration laws as a way to reduce some of the effects of DOMA. The classification of permanent partner would have imposed most of the same requirements as marriages: the couple would have to be in a committed relationship, couldn’t be underage or blood relatives, and couldn’t be married or in a permanent partnership with anyone else. UAFA carves out an exception to DOMA: DOMA would remain the law until repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court, but same-sex binational couples could escape deportation.
The other amendment is a different type of workaround. It would add a section to the Immigration and Nationality Act providing that a marriage will be recognized as legal if it is legal where it was performed. This wouldn’t create any new categories, it would just ensure that the federal government relies on state law definitions for immigration purposes.
Neither amendment was included in the bill by the committee, but yesterday Greg Sargent reported in the Washington Post that Democratic aides are saying that the amendments may be reintroduced after the immigration bill reaches the floor of the Senate. The report suggests that the amendments may reappear in time to coincide with the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor’s constitutional challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. If the Court strikes down the law, it would make UAFA mostly inoperable. But this Court is unpredictable on social issues and any decision could hinge on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. At oral argument he seemed most convinced that Section 3 of DOMA violates federalism principles, but most of the moderates seemed to find an equal protection holding more appealing while the conservatives disagreed with both. If the Court leaves DOMA intact, it’s hard to see how Congress would repeal it any time soon. The House is majority Republican and the Senate usually proceeds on the assumption that 60 votes will be required due to obstruction.
Introducing the amendments right before the Court’s ruling could change the conversations over LGBT inclusion: if Section 3 of DOMA is struck down, the amendments would be seen as largely unnecessary, but if it’s upheld and the amendments aren’t included in the bill, same-sex binational couples will not get any relief from this immigration reform package. Interestingly, Sargent’s piece suggests that Democrats actually want to force the issue:
And so, if Dems wait until the DOMA decision comes down, they could find themselves without any real need to push the LGBT issue in the immigration reform debate. At the same time, though, this is a fight Democrats — and the White House – want to have, for substantive and political reasons. So they may introduce the amendments before the DOMA decision comes down — forcing a public battle with the GOP over gay rights.
That would theoretically gin up the right wing base, forcing Republicans to rail against — and vote against — the simple act of extending a bill many of them support, i.e., immigration reform, to cover gay married couples, too. That would again reveal the GOP’s unwillingness to evolve on gay marriage along with the rest of the country, at a time when even some Republican officials and strategists are urging the party to develop a more tolerant and inclusive aura, something that is being made impossible by the refusal of most Republican voters to accept the inevitable.
It’s a bigger challenge to get the amendments in the bill on the floor, of course. It will take 60 votes for the Senate to include the amendments on the floor, whereas if the committee had included it, Republican opponents would have needed 60 votes to strip the amendments on the floor. If there’s a serious push, it may happen, but if it’s just to “forc[e] a public battle with the GOP over gay rights” then inclusion of the amendments would ultimately be more about discussing the issue of LGBT inclusion and less about doing the work to include LGBT people. The Court’s ruling, expected by late June, may be a critical factor in Congress’ decision.
May 23, 2013
By Jacob Combs
Freedom to Work filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights yesterday alleging that Exxon Mobil Corporation discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation in its hiring practices, in contravention of the state’s Human Rights Act.
The complaint, written by two lawyers from the D.C. civil rights/employment firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, was based on the company’s treatment of a pair of ‘test’ resumes that Freedom to Work submitted on behalf of fictitious applicants to an Exxon job located in Illinois. This is the first time an LGBT group has conducted a resume test. As Freedom to Work describes in its filing, the two applicants received dramatically different treatment by the company based on their sexual orientation:
“[W]hen a highly qualified LGBT candidate applied to work as an administrative assistant for Exxon in Illinois, Exxon refused to invite the applicant for an interview and never contacted her about her interest in the position. In stark contrast, during the same time period a less qualified non-LGBT applicant applied for the same position and Exxon responded by contacting the less qualified non-LGBT applicant on three separate occasions to ask her to interview for the position.
“On the third occasion that Exxon contacted the non-LGBT applicant, Exxon’s representative even suggested that the position would be held open for the non-LGBT applicant for four days until the applicant could contact Exxon. And even after the non-LGBT candidate failed to respond to Exxon’s request for an interview, Exxon did not contact the better qualified LGBT candidate for an interview.”
Freedom to Work’s complaint asks the Department of Human Rights “to enjoin Exxon from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in Illinois, to require Exxon to amend its equal employment opportunity policy to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to require Exxon to educate its managers and workforce on how to ensure that its employees and applicants are not subject to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Exxon Mobil remains one of the few Fortune 500 companies without an LGBT non-discrimination policy; the oil company received a score of -25 in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2013 Corporate Equality Index.
Exxon will hold its annual shareholder’s meeting next week in Dallas, where shareholders will vote on a resolution to adopt an anti-LGBT discrimination ban. A similar proposal failed last year when 80 percent of shareholders rejected it. Only 12 percent of Fortune 500 companies do not have such a policy.
Freedom to Work conducted a similar resume test in Texas, Exxon’s home state, which returned the same results as the Illinois test. However, Texas has no LGBT employment discrimination law, so Freedom to Work was only able to challenge the company’s hiring practices in Illinois.
“Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness,” Tico Almeida, Freedom to Work’s president, said in a statement announcing the complaint. ”This case is one more reminder that Exxon stands virtually alone in the Fortune 100 in denying qualified gay and transgender Americans a fair shot to get a job based on their talents and hard work. Exxon must obey the Golden Rule and do onto others as they would want others to do onto them.”
Read the full complaint in Freedom to Work v. Exxon Mobil Corp. below, via Equality Case Files at Scribd.
May 22, 2013
By Scottie Thomaston
- The biggest news of the week is yesterday’s action in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where most Democrats joined all Republicans to oppose inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), a compromise pro-LGBT bill that would have allowed binational married couples of the same sex to remain in the United States together, in the “comprehensive” immigration bill. Jacob covered it today, and linked to lots of commentary. Earlier this month, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway explained UAFA and the potential effects of an eventual repeal or court decision striking down DOMA. He pointed out that simply getting rid of DOMA would not fix the situation.
- LGBT activists react angrily to the lack of LGBT inclusion in immigration.
- What’s next in the marriage fight?
- A poll in Tennessee shows that 62 per cent of people in the state think gays and lesbians and their partners should get health and other work-related benefits, and also shows that 49 per cent support some sort of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
- Last week, President Obama gave a commencement address at Morehouse College that included pro-LGBT remarks. The video is here.
- Freedom to Work has filed a discrimination complaint against Exxon Mobil in Illinois.