Have you seen the movie, Philadelphia which stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, that came out in 1993? Philadelphia, was one of the first movies to address the AIDS epidemic, and won two Academy Awards. The story is set roughly in the year 1987, and is about Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) getting fired from his job after his employer found out that he was gay and had AIDS. Mr. Beckett decides to sue for wrongful termination. As he calls different law firms, each one tells him that they do not want to help him or even think about taking his case. After nine lawyers refuse to take Mr. Beckett’s case, he calls lawyer, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Joe asks Mr. Beckett to come to his office for a consultation, where he finds out that Mr. Beckett has AIDS. Even though he is afraid to touch Mr. Beckett, Mr. Miller decided to take on his case. As the case proceeds, the audience sees how AIDS starts to effect Mr. Beckett and how the rest of the community at the time reacts to the subject of gay men and AIDS. In the end, Mr. Beckett had the favor of the jury, in which he was expected to receive back pay, punitive damages, and damages from his pain and suffering. If you have not seen this movie, it definitely is one that you should watch, but just be sure to have a box of Kleenex with you.
Being fired from a job was very common between WWII and the 1990s. I would have never thought that this would be the case, but sadly it is true. Many individuals who identified themselves as being gay, lesbian, and even transgender would try to keep their sexual identity out of the work environment in fear that they would also end up like Mr. Becket. During WWII, if the government found out that any service man or woman participated in homosexual relationships, they were discharged from the branch of military they were a part of. In the 1940s and 1950s the United States State Department’s Division of Security and Investigations started an investigation on single males who were working or applying for any government office position. Friends, family, previous co-workers were interviewed in hopes that the Investigators would find the information they needed to fire the said worker. At the end of the 18-year investigation, there were to be said, 3,750 gay men and lesbian women working for government agencies (Faderman, 2015, p. 20) and many of these individuals were terminated from their government agency position. Faderman (2015) goes on to explain that by the end of 1950 more than five hundred government agency workers across the United States had been terminated due to being an active member in the gay/lesbian community (p. 21).
In current day, one would think that individuals would not be terminated because of who they choose to have a relationship with. This though is not the case. By November 2014, Miles Bryan (2014) from NPR reported that, “the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has helped more than 1,200 LGBT people bring employment discrimination claims since the beginning of 2013”. In 2016, the US has 19 states that have gender identity protection laws. The majority of these states are states in the northern part of the country. While some states offer protection to the LGB community, there are still 28 states where an individual can be fired for being Lesbian, Gay, or Bi-sexual and if an individual is transgender, they can be fired in 32 states. This is quite eye opening, and I do think that even though someone may not agree with the LGBT lifestyle, this population does need to have job discrimination protection in all of the states just like everyone else.
Bryan, M. (2014, November 11). For People Fired For Being Gay, Old Court Case Becomes A New Tool. Retrieved September 2016, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/10/363049315/for-people-fired-for-being-gay-old-court-case-becomes-a-new-tool
Faderman, L. (2015). The Gay Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kameny, F. (2011). The Kameny Papers. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from The Kameny Papers: http://www.kamenypapers.org/index.htm