Workplace discrimination is the next frontier of gay rights.
While the country remains split on the question of gay marriage, a new poll finds that 73 percent of Americans favor President Obama signing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The poll also found that embarrassingly few of us even know this type of discrimination is legally sanctioned; 87 percent believe discriminating against gay employees is already against the law, while only 5 percent know that it remains legal.
The most notable thing about this poll is that a majority of virtually every group favors this kind of protection for LGBT people—including 60 percent of conservatives, 77 percent of Catholics, and 73 percent of senior citizens. Anti-LGBT workplace discrimination hasn't yet taken center stage in the fight for gay rights, but apparently it should—it'd be tremendously successful.
It's heartening that most Americans understand why it's wrong for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. It's also dispiriting that more people don't consider the right to marry a civil rights issue. Perhaps a job, especially in a time of high unemployment, strikes us as more of a human right than the ability to put a ring on someone's finger. In reality, of course, getting married is just as much a business transaction as a declaration of love, and how that job's wages are taxed depends on our marital status. So as we advance the popular cause of LGBT worker protection, let's remember that our economic and personal lives are inextricable.