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Congressman Ted Lieu

Representing the 33rd District of California

Does Your Member Of Congress Have Policies Protecting LGBT Staffers From Discrimination?

January 30, 2015
In The News

It's still legal for members of Congress to fire their employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's because there is no federal law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from workplace discrimination, even though many states have their own policies that are more inclusive.

Many lawmakers, however, have gone above and beyond existing law -- which requires protections on the basis of race, national origin, color, sex, religion, age and disability -- to include their LGBT staffers. Each office writes its own employee policies, and some are including sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression in their anti-discrimination protections.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asked House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) last month to include protections for LGBT employees in the House rules package. Sessions declined.

This week, Hoyer, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and House Administration Committee Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) urged more of their colleagues to adopt LGBT-inclusive policies, even providing sample language for them to use.

"Under the current House Rules, an employee who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may be fired, demoted, denied a promotion, or otherwise discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” the letter stated. "This remains the case even while hundreds of LGBT individuals employed by the House are advancing the work of the Congress and are playing an important role in helping us serve our constituents."

Individual office policies are, for the most part, not made public, and there's no record of how many offices do include LGBT-inclusive protections.

So The Huffington Post contacted every member of Congress this week to find out. One hundred eighteen offices responded, and perhaps not surprisingly, ones with such guidelines were more likely to get back to us.

Thirty-one Senate offices and 76 House offices said they either have protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression in place or will be adding them soon. Since it's the start of a new Congress, many offices are still writing, or reviewing, their policies. A few offices -- including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) -- said they would now be changing their policies to include those categories in response to the Hoyer push.

Other offices have had their policies in place for quite some time. The office of Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), for example, sent over its internal policy memo from 1993 that barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (His office now includes gender identity protections as well.)

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is a new member whose office is still writing its policies. But spokeswoman Pili Tobar said they will add LGBT protections.

"I think a lot of members take guidelines from others," Tobar said. "This is something we definitely were going to include, so it was perfect when they put out the sample language ... so that we could just go ahead and know that this has also been vetted."

Three offices said they do not have policies protecting LGBT employees from discrimination. Again, these offices aren't breaking the law. In 2013, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to bar workplace discrimination against LGBT people, but the House never took it up. Therefore, LGBT workplace discrimination is still legal on the federal level.

Some offices without LGBT-inclusive protections said they didn't have any written policies on the matter but did not discriminate anyway.

"We don't have any written policies, and the issue has not come up yet," Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said in a statement. "If it did, I would act in accordance with the anti-discrimination legislation that I've supported."

"Nothing [is] written but [we] have had gay and diverse staff -- everyone treated equal," said Michael Andel, spokesman for Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

But Mitchell Rivard, the spokesman for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and a staffer for Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), said it's important to have these protections in print.

“Members can -- and should –- make a simple change to their office policy to prohibit employment discrimination in their offices based on sexual orientation and gender identity," he said. "Adding these two enumerations is easy, takes only minutes and is the only way to ensure that LGBT staffers are protected from discrimination. The LGBT Congressional Staff Association hopes that the House will soon also include sexual orientation and gender identity enumerations in their office policy templates distributed to all member offices. All House employees -- including LGBT staffers -- deserve basic workplace protections from discrimination.”

Four of the offices that responded said their policies cover sexual orientation but not gender identity. Four others -- Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) -- said they don't discriminate but didn't specify whether they have written policies covering LGBT staffers.

Below is the list of offices that do or don't include anti-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. If you don't see a member's name, that means we haven't figured out that office's policy yet. Help us do that.

Some of our inquiries may not have reached the right people, especially since it's the start of a new session of Congress. We hope more offices will reach out to us to explain their policies. 

Offices Offering LGBT-Inclusive Protections

Senate: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

House: Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), David Loebsack (D-Iowa), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Price (D-N.C.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.)

Offices With Sexual Orientation Protections Only

Senate: Tom Udall (D-N.M.)

House: Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)

Offices Without LGBT-Inclusive Protections

Senate: Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

House: Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), David Scott (D-Ga.)