In April 2015, 38 states and Washington, D.C. granted legal benefits of marriage to same-sex marriages, a huge step up from 12 in 2013. But there are still 27 states that do not have statewide protection from discrimination against LGBT workers.
Furthermore, many individuals in the legal industry fear losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation, and paralegals are more at risk than lawyers because they are employees at will and not protected by partnership agreements. So what can LGBT paralegals do if they live in one of these states?
In this episode of The Paralegal Voice, I interview Ric Roane, Esq., a lawyer with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about the history of legal rights regarding the LGBT community and how paralegals today can cope with discrimination and fear of coming out in their workplace.
Mr. Roane discusses how the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed in 1996 denies marriage benefits to same-sex spouses. He also talks about how the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan and similar acts in other states defend widely against discrimination without mention of the LGBT community. He explains the Supreme Court consideration of whether the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry and how their decision will affect workers.
After the break, Mr. Roane talks about his own experience of being an openly gay lawyer, the differences between discrimination of paralegals versus lawyers, and steps a paralegal can take to help enhance his or her job security.
The following states (and the District of Columbia) have passed similar anti-discrimination laws giving protection to the LGBT community:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin