On Saturday, March 30, 2019, the Center for Law and Policy in association with the Central Florida Paralegal Association put on a CLE regarding the law and the LGBTQ+ population. The event was well attended and included presenters who spoke on a variety of topics including the history of LGBTQ+ precedent, discrimination in the workforce, and issues with gender reassignment in written documents such as wills, trusts, and marital settlement agreements. While the speakers did a phenomenal job in entertaining the audience’s inquiries, one individual posed an interesting question. “Why care?”
According to a 2017 Gallop Poll, only 4.5% of the entire U.S. population identifies itself in being a member of these groups1. Additionally, the focus of caselaw protecting these individuals is based more on the protected right being abused as opposed to classifying these individuals as a protected class. It would appear that at least the U.S. is far from prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference or gender identity.
One presenter responded by pointing out the benefits of diversity in companies and corporations as a reason to care. While everyone enjoys subordinates who always agree with them, this often breeds stagnation in production and is a barrier to success. Though a small part of the population, LGBTQ+ employees can provide a new perspective on issues and problems encountered in the workforce. By encouraging feedback from these groups, intuitions can more readily think outside the box when encountering difficulties to their bottom lines.
A second presenter followed up that while 4.5% is indeed a relatively small number, it does not account for two groups who could increase this figure to a much larger amount. The first are those individuals in denial who are either afraid or ashamed to be associated with what some label a “fringe” or “immoral” lifestyle. The second group is composed of those people who are still searching for their identity. Many people do not “come out” or consider re-gender surgery until much later in life when they are in a place that they either have the financial or emotional support needed to make such an important decision. Furthermore, the presenter noted that the 4.5% figure does not include the friends and family members of these individuals who may experience harm by hostile environments. Fathers or mothers with a child who identifies as LGBTQ+ may feel discriminated against or hurt by the use of insensitive language.
The final reason provided by a presenter asked the audience to consider whether as a society we want to project an environment of inclusivity or exclusivity. The United States has always embraced diversity and uniqueness, and so the better question is “what does it say about us if we don’t care?”