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Rep. Linda Sanchez Pushes To End LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Arash Zandi |
November 25, 2013 | 4:16 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Tico Almeida, Bamby Salcedo, Representative Linda Sánchez and Thomas Saenz. (Arash Zandi/Neon Tommy)
Tico Almeida, Bamby Salcedo, Representative Linda Sánchez and Thomas Saenz. (Arash Zandi/Neon Tommy)
Identifying with one prejudiced group is quite stressful. But people who identify with two are faced with challenges every day. Latinos who identify as LGBT are part of a group that faces such difficulties. They suffer from hardships like hiring biases, lower wages/salaries, discrimination and harassment on all fronts as well as lower grades in school and college.

Those are the finds of a new report entitled “A Broken Bargain For LGBT Workers Of Color”, authored in part by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

The "Broken Bargain" report was unveiled in a downtown Los Angeles hearing Monday led by Southern California congresswoman, Linda Sánchez, (D-Santa Ana).  Sánchez also heard from prominent figures from Latino and LGBT organizations on the importance of enacting laws to prevent LGBT-related discrimination in the workplace. The goal of this report is to help convince House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, as well as the rest of the House to vote on and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which was passed by the Senate earlier this month. If passed, ENDA will end discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

READ MORE: Senate Passes Federal LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill 

Representative Sánchez started the event by thanking everyone who was involved with the creation of the “Broken Bargain” report. She complimented its thoroughness and talked about the passage of ENDA by the Senate. Sánchez stressed that LGBT transgender of color are “unemployed four times more than the national average.” She then introduced the other panelists and gave the floor to MALDEF president Thomas Saenz who talked about how when Latinos are discriminated, it is not because of them as a person, but something that links to them, such as immigration issues or language barriers. Intersectional discrimination (specifically LGBT discrimination mixed with Latino discrimination) was also covered. Saenz stressed that the Latino community needs ENDA in order to prevent discrimination and that the report is a powerful tool to help convince the House to pass ENDA.

Bamby Salcedo, a trans-woman and founder and president of the Trans-Latina Coalition, a national organization that advocates for rights for Latinos that identify as transgender, took the floor. She talked about interviewing 101 transgender Latino people. One interesting fact of note that Salcedo mentioned was that 37 of those participants did not disclose their salary in the interview because either they were ashamed of their salary or that their employer was in the sex industry. Salcedo shared a testimony from one of the interviewees, “There are people who don’t accept us because we are trans. If we weren’t trans, we would get a job anywhere.” During her speech,  Salcedo became emotional as she said that she used to be homeless and she has made a large amount of progress as she is now a productive member of society. Representative Sánchez added that stories like Salcedo’s should be heard on Capitol Hill and that it would change the minds and hearts of many people about LGBT rights.

READ MORE: Pass Workplace Restrictions For LGBT

Tico Almeida, founder and president of national LGBT organization Freedom to Work quoted some statistics from a Gallup poll: 1 in 3 LGBT people identify as people of color, LGBT people of color have higher rates of unemployment and Latino LGBT people are 5 times more likely to live in poverty than non-LGBT Latinos. Almeida also shared his experience in Washington by mentioning that he was involved in the drafting of various parts of ENDA

The panelists opened up the floor to questions from the attendees when Rep. Sánchez was asked if she is optimistic about passage of ENDA she said, “I am internally, an optimist. Many other bills are being revisited frequently, like the debt ceiling. They take priority over other important bills, like ENDA, immigration reform and tax reform and next year we will have to revisit those battles. There are only 9 legislative days left in this year so next year it may happen.”

Sánchez also said, “[LGBT discrimination in the workplace] is just not right. It’s not an American value that we hold. This is a very real problem, especially for LGBT people of color. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue because it affects people of every background no matter what political party they subscribe to. ENDA is a very powerful milestone. We all share responsibility for trying to make this happen.”

Reach Staff Reporter Arash Zandi here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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