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Archives – May, 2013

Freedom to Work files employment discrimination suit against Exxon Mobil

By Jacob Combs

AP file photo
AP file photo

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.

[scribd id=143034582 key=key-1m1wialchd7vndqyc2mh mode=scroll]

1 Comment May 23, 2013

Equality news round-up: Immigration reform, LGBT rights in Tennessee, and more

By Scottie Thomaston

Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill

– 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.

– Last we Towleroad profiled a same-sex binational couple. Lavi Soloway did as well.

– 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.

3 Comments May 22, 2013

Senate committee jettisons LGBT protections in immigration reform bill

By Jacob CombsVermont Senator Patrick Leahy

In a stunning and disheartening defeat, Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee chose yesterday not to include protections for binational same-sex couples in the comprehensive immigration reform bill currently making its way through Congress.

Republicans on the committee had publicly and privately stated that including the measure, known as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), would force them to withhold their support from the entire bill.  UAFA would have created a classification of ‘permanent partners’ through which U.S. citizens in binational same-sex relationships could sponsor their partners in immigration proceedings.  A related amendment would have extended immigration protections to married same-sex couples in spite of the Defense of Marriage Act.

During yesterday’s committee markup, four crucial Democrats–all of whom support marriage equality, in theory–spoke of a difficult decision in withdrawing support for the amendment but defended the move in light of Republican threats.  “If we make the effort to make [the protections] part of this bill, they will walk away,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said during the hearing. “They’ve said it publicly. They’ve told me privately. I believe them.”

The other three Democrats on the committee who pulled their support of the amendment were Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who had introduced the UAFA amendment in the first place, was the only Democratic Senator who spoke in favor of the measure unreservedly.  “I don’t want to be the senator who asks Americans to choose between the life of their life and the love of their country,” he said when introducing the amendment, but later said he would withdraw it “with a heavy heart” given its lack of support in the chamber.

The committee eventually voted 13-5 to send the comprehensive immigration reform bill to the full Senate.  The UAFA amendment could be considered by the full Senate in June when the immigration reform legislation comes up for a floor vote, although it would likely require 60 votes to pass, making its chances of success exceedingly slim.  The measure could also be taken up as a stand-alone bill, but such a path would also be sure to falter in the face of a 60-vote threshold.

“Despite the leadership of Chairman Leahy, Judiciary Committee Democrats have caved to bullying by their Republican colleagues,” Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality Action Fund, said in a statement after the vote. “There should be shame on both sides of the political aisle today for lawmakers who worked to deny LGBT immigrant families a vote. Despite widespread support from business, labor, faith, Latino and Asian-American advocates, Senators abandoned LGBT families without a vote.”

LGBT immigration advocates pointed out yesterday as reports surfaced that the Leahy amendments might be tabled that they were essentially burned three times by Democratic Senators on the issue.  “It is important to note,” Immigration Equality’s Steve Ralls told Metro Weekly, “that, when the Senate immigration framework (which Schumer and Durbin helped write) did not include LGBT couples, both Senators assured our families they would be in the base bill. When the base bill (which they also helped write) was not inclusive, they assured us we would receive a vote in Committee.”  Of course, no such committee vote ended up occurring.

The immigration protections debate underscores the vital importance of understanding that, while the LGBT community’s successes on the marriage equality front in the last few months have been remarkable, there are still many issues on which politicians still need to be pushed.  Even though all four of the Democrats in question on the Judiciary Committee support marriage equality, that support did not carry over to support for same-sex couples’ rights when it comes to immigration.  It’s worth asking these senators whether they support LGBT equality categorically, or in words only.

2 Comments May 22, 2013

Former President Bill Clinton calls on Illinois House of Representatives to pass marriage equality

By Scottie Thomaston

Illinois Unites For Marriage, the state coalition for the passage of the marriage equality law, said today that former President Bill Clinton is calling on state legislators to pass the bill before the Assembly adjourns on May 31. Clinton said in a statement:

“Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ – deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community,” said President Clinton. “That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in Illinois, with marriage equality.”
“Since the days of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois has stood for the proposition that all citizens should be treated equally under the law,” President Clinton said in Tuesday’s statement. “Lincoln himself came to Springfield in search of opportunity, and he dedicated his life to securing equal opportunity for all citizens. I believe that for Illinois and for our nation as a whole, in the 21st century that must include marriage equality.”

In recent weeks, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has reiterated his support for marriage equality, telling the state House to send the bill to his desk. And yesterday it was reported that LGBT leaders in the state have said they have obtained the votes required to pass the bill, and that there’s no reason it shouldn’t be voted on before the session ends.

Clinton has shifted his views on marriage equality over the years, and he wrote recently that the Supreme Court should rule that DOMA, which he signed in 1996, is unconstitutional. He had previously asked North Carolina’s voters to oppose Amendment 1, the anti-gay marriage ban that passed last year.

If the House passes the bill, Illinois will become the 13th state with marriage equality for same-sex couples. With only days left in the session, the vote would be expected soon, if it’s called.

52 Comments May 21, 2013

Marriage equality bill survives amendment process in House of Commons, moves to final vote today

By Jacob Combs

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

After a contentious day of debate and several votes, the UK House of Commons added amendments to a proposed marriage equality bill and avoided additions seen as poison pills to kill the legislation, the Guardian reports.

In February, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons by an overwhelming margin of 400 to 175.  During yesterday’s debate, however, LGBT advocates were concerned that an amendment proposed by Tim Loughton, an anti-marriage equality Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), might derail the bill.  Loughton’s amendment, which would have made civil partnerships available to all couples regardless of sexual orientation, rather than only same-sex couples, was voted down 375-70.

Critics of Loughton’s amendment, among them Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, said that the measure would add £4 billion to the cost of the marriage equality bill (in the form of pension payments to civil partners) and could have delayed implementation of the change for several months.

While Cameron and his supporters were ultimately successful in defeating Loughton’s proposal, they were nevertheless forced to make a dramatic last-minute request to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who was planning to abstain on the measure, to move against the amendment.  Many Labour MPs had expressed support for the proposal, and in return for Miliband’s support, Cameron’s government agreed that it would begin an immediate review into whether civil partnerships should be extended to opposite-sex couples.  That review, which equalities minister Maria Miller said might result in the abolition of all civil partnerships (after the passage of marriage equality), was initially to take place no more than five years after the marriage bill’s passage.

In another dramatic move, more than 100 Conservative MPs voted against Cameron by backing an amendment that would have permitted registrars to opt out of marrying same-sex couples.  Another vote intended to protect the religious beliefs of any opponent of marriage equality also failed.  According to Pam’s House Blend, two friendly amendments were approved: one which would protect religious officials from lawsuits and another which could pave the way for same-sex weddings in the Church of Wales.

The House of Commons will consider additional amendments today and will then hold a third reading and final vote on the bill.  If it is approved, it will proceed to the House of Lords in two weeks time for further consideration.

May 21, 2013

12 States Have Marriage, Can We Get to 13?

By Matt Baume

Minnesota passes a marriage bill, bringing the total to twelve states with the freedom to marry. Can we make it thirteen? Time’s running out for Illinois to pass its marriage bill this year. And even with public support for marriage soaring, numerous states may be stuck with marriage bans for years to come.

It’s going to be a busy summer. Marriage equality goes into effect in Minnesota and Rhode Island on August First, and in Delware on July First. About 53 million people now live in states with marriage.

But work in those states isn’t done. Many of the lawmakers who stood up for equality will face challenges in elections from anti-LGBT candidates. It’s important to defend the politicians who voted in favor of the freedom to marry. Minnesotans United for All Families has announced that they’ll convert the organization into a political action committee that will work to make sure those supportive lawmakers are re-elected.

Over in Illinois, the legislative session is scheduled to end in less than two weeks. Time is quickly running out for a vote on that state’s marriage bill, which Governor Patrick Quinn has pledged to sign. Visit EQIL to learn more and to find out how you can help.

Polling in Illinois is strong, with 50% for marriage and 29% opposed. And national support continues to grow as well, with a new Gallup poll showing 53% favor marriage to 45% opposed. This is the fifth consecutive Gallup poll to show marriage equality at or above 50 percent.

We have several additional surveys this week that show growing support in more conservative states. In Michigan, it’s at 58.6 percent, an increase of 12 and a half points in just the last year. In Virginia, it’s 55 percent, a ten point increase in two years. And it’s 55 percent in Arizona, with 35 percent opposed.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that all three of these states — and twenty seven others — have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. That means that even with a majority of public support, those states are still stuck with marriage bans for the time being. Changing those state constitutions will be a slow and expensive process.

In Nevada, for example, a repeal of the state’s constitutional ban just passed an Assembly Committee and now heads to a full floor vote. It’s expected to pass, but then it’ll have to wait two years before it can advance to the next round of voting. And then it’ll be 2016 before the repeal finally makes it to the ballot.

But there are other avenues for marriage equality to win. In Nevada and Hawaii, for example, there are lawsuits challenging the state’s constitutional ban. Because they’re covered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawsuit’s on hold pending a Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8. If the court upholds AFER’s previous victory, it could dramatically accelerate the marriage equality process in Arizona across the entire country.

And we’re closer than ever to a resolution on Prop 8. The deadline for the Supreme Court to rule is the end of June. Subscribe here on YouTube and at for breaking news alerts and to find out how you can help support the cause of equality for all.


May 20, 2013

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