6 game-changing laws that have transformed the LGBTQ community

It has been over 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality started – and since then we have made some phenomenal steps forward when it comes to protecting the rights of people in the LGBT community.

Perhaps the biggest and most seminal piece of legislation in recent memory was the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013. But while this was a ‘game-changing’ law, it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for a number of Acts that were passed over the last few decades.

As someone who sees these rights enforced on a daily basis, I often feel these other acts don’t get the attention they deserve which is why, for LGBT History Month, I’d like to look back and applaud some of these integral laws… as they are the bones around which everything else has been constructed.

Human Rights Act 1998
This remarkable Act allowed for fundamental human rights, including the right not the be discriminated against for sexual orientation. It was later used to also advance the rights of LGBTQ individuals both for legal protection in a relationship.

In 2000, a case relied on it to lift a ban on gay and bisexual people serving in the armed forces and was further instrumental in equalising the age of consent to be the same as opposite-sex partners.

Adoption and Children Act 2002
This Act wasn’t really advertised at the time but ground-breaking for same sex individuals as it was the first time in law that they were able to adopt. While the practice has ebbed away from discriminatory behaviour, it was still not expressly permitted.

This Act is one of the first that allowed the formation of same-sex families who had the right to be considered not just as a person who helped care for their partner’s child but as their actual legal parent too.

Civil Partnership Act 2004
This Act marked a significant change in legal standing for couples and allowed the formation of legal partnerships, the sharing of property and the ability to apply to the family courts for a fair resolution on separation. While no one likes going to court, previously LGBTQ couples had to rely on the stricter and more money-based property courts to seek remedy and protect their homes and future.

While it did not equalise marriage in name and still has some lingering faults – it nonetheless compliments the Adoption and Children Act.

© Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Gender Recognition Act 2004
When it comes to progressive LGBTQ legislation, 2004 was a good year and this seminal piece of legislation cannot go without mention. While it has recently come under more severe criticism (and justly so, in my view) it nonetheless provided for the first time a mechanism which allows an individual to be recognised by something other than their assigned gender at birth.

Issues include the fact it did not provide any retrospective action, it caused problems for married couples and ignored the basic tenant about the individuality of each person going through the process. But while imperfect it was game-changing and not to be underestimated.

The Equality Act 2006
This was quickly followed up by the Equality Act 2010 which added gender reassignment as a ‘protected characteristic’.

While the Act has not eradicated employment discrimination (which unfortunately my employment team still deal with on a frequent basis), in other cases it has had an impact – such the ‘Gay Cake’ case in Northern Ireland too. In this instance a bakery refused to make a “gay cake” with the slogan “support gay marriage” because of their religious views.

The court upheld this was “direct discrimination”.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
Although surrogacy was permitted before, the Parental Order process was not available for same-sex male couples. The Act rectified this but also introduced the ability for same-sex female couples to be both named on the birth certificate as the legal parents of a child after using a known donor. This was allowed even if they were not in a civil partnership, provided they went through a clinic and filled the correct forms.

With this Act and the change it brought, LGBTQ families have really flourished and I now meet couples applying for recognition of legal parenthood with increasing frequency. As recently as 14 February, Tom Daley and his partner Dustin Lance Black announced they’re having a family. I am sure everyone will wish them well with parenthood, but it is also clear to show that same-sex families are now in the mainstream and here for good.

That happened though because of this Act and, despite its long-winded title, it should not be underestimated.

Andrew Spearman is a leading family and LGBTQ rights lawyer, and a Director at ACityLawFirm (www.acitylawfirm.com).

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This is how The Greatest Showman helped save one gay teen from suicide

Directed by Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman is a bold and original musical film that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life.

But it wasn’t just the lives of the cast involved that have changed since its release, as actress Keala Settle – who plays the Bearded Lady – revealed about one young LGBTQ teen who was struggling with their sexuality.

Related: Zendaya: People need to stop telling us who we should love

“I got a message the other day from a man who is gay and was about to take his own life,” Keala reveals exclusively to Gay Times. “He sent me a thing saying, ‘I heard your song and I took the gun down.’ I wept.

“It’s that kind of impact that gives me goosebumps to tell you that because it makes me realise, again, not only does that young man have stuff in themselves to last a lifetime and let  shine, but I do too because of what he told me I’d given him – that I didn’t even know. It’s that type of impact that’s being made.”

“We are universally in a time where things are very negative,” Keala continues when referencing the current political and social climate. “There’s a lot of anger that is going on and, not so much fighting, but that it’s getting really, really personal – attacking individually and collectively on another level.

“What the film has done – as well as the music – has given everyone a free pass to let all that go, and that pass is almost the ultimate fast pass for any ride you could ever go on. Not only does it give you that pass, but it lets you relish in the fact that what is happening to the characters in that film, and the stories that are going on in the film, are all relatable – no matter what year we are in, who you are or what you are.”

Related: Zac Efron and Zendaya Rewrite the Stars in stunning duet for The Greatest Showman

But what does the voice of This Is Me think of the suggestion it has become a modern LGBTQ anthem?

“I couldn’t be more honoured and privileged,” she beams – much to our enjoyment. “It’s one of those things where this community of people are continually fighting and striving for not only equality rights but to feel like they are part of a community and have the lives they’ve always wanted to live because that is who they are!

“When the song was first released as a single at the end of 2017, my life started ringing off the hook and I didn’t know what was going on. I gave my first interview about eight hours after the song was released and they asked if I knew what type of anthem I’d created. I started to cry and said, ‘Errr… no, I don’t!’ I had no idea and didn’t realise.

“All of the fears that I had are in that song. Those fears aren’t going to go away, but what’s so comforting and continues no matter what I’m doing daily is the likeness with each individual that’s touched by the song. That’s what blows my mind and I had no idea.”

Fox / The Greatest Showman

Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerising spectacle that became a worldwide sensation – championing the power of the underdog and those that feel different.

And while The Greatest Showman follows the life of an aspiring man who dreams of a better life for his family, Keala tells us she took a slightly different message from the movie.

Related: Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman take flight in thrilling The Greatest Showman trailer – watch 

“The moral of the story for me is that you shouldn’t keep chasing and trying to be accepted by somebody else,” notes Keala before pausing. “In the words of RuPaul, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you going to love somebody else? Can I get an amen?!’”

She adds: “It’s about not seeking permission for somebody else to tell you that you’re worth it – ever.”

“I remember when I saw my first Instagram video of a drag queen lip-syncing This Is Me,” Keala recalls with great excitement. “I was sat in the chair getting ready to go out and I cried. When you have a drag queen lip-syncing your song for their life, you have won. You’ve now won everything in life!

Related: Big Brother star Courtney Act reads President Trump’s tweets to filth – watch

“When I saw that first clip, I said ‘Oh my gosh, this really is a game-changer. It really is a life-changer.’ This wasn’t just changing my life but is continuing to change the lives all around the world, so when I first saw that I bawled because of how much was coming out of her. I’ve seen others since and it’s just breathtaking, and it makes me so happy that people can find who they are in themselves absolutely perfectly.”

Fox / The Greatest Showman

Caught in great laughter when recalling how the filming of This Is Me was repeatedly stopped and started due to the cast caught singing along when they shouldn’t, Keala tells us why the song meant more to her as an individual than as an actress.

“I’m not going to lie… I’ve felt different since I knew how to feel,” she begins quietly. “That’s one of the reasons why I first didn’t want to do the song because of facing my fears.

“Even in the rehearsal space before the presentation to get the movie greenlit, I didn’t want to do it. I was petrified. That meant that I had to know that I’m good enough to stand in front and sing by myself – not hiding behind a brunch of Broadway costumes or lights. I had to do that, and I still freak out about it.”

Related: Exclusive Andrew Brady interview: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re homophobic, you’re homophobic”

With a movie that asks people to look beyond what society would deem as ‘different’, Keala faced a small number of remarks during the initial movie release, explaining: “I think in the beginning when I was promoting it, everybody was like ‘who is this fat chick? She has no business.’ I didn’t even think about it because I had a beard on, but thanks for throwing that into the fire.”

But her now loyal and rather great social followers soon came to her defence…

“It was interesting with the following that I now have –  and am very grateful for – that they are warriors and are not only fighting for each other and themselves, but fight for me which is humbling. I’ve never really seen anything, and I’m sure it has been around all over the place, and humans will be humans – nor will I want to.”

Fox / The Greatest Showman

And a stage transfer? Keala is totally game for it happening when we inform her that co-star Hugh Jackman has revealed he’d like to see it happen.

“He said that?!” she questions with great delight. “I’d love to, but I know how hard it was to tap into it just for the film.

Related: Cher sings an Abba classic in brand new Mamma Mia! 2 trailer

“For a Broadway production, which you may know is eight shows a week, it’s raw and it’s full out. It’s the film for two and a half hours, eight shows every week if that did happen.

“It’s a lot of work, but hey, he’s [Hugh Jackman] number one on the call sheet so if he wants to do it then heck… are you kidding me? I’ll have to be. He’ll send the car and be like ‘get in the car, let’s go.’ I’ll be there. I’ll do anything for that man. He’s the reason that I’m out here. He is the reason and the one. I had t-shirts made that say ‘It’s Your Fault Hugh Jackman’.”

And the casual Oscar nomination? “It’s interesting because it’s not totally mine,” Keala giggles. “It’s Benji and Justin’s and I’m really aware of that. I’m extremely happy to be participating in that and getting to say those words as it’s something I’ve always dreamed about. To actually see it come to tuition, as I never thought I would, is very fantastic.”

Laughing that she’d totally be up for ‘doing an Adele’ and splitting the Oscar with her musical co-stars like the British singer famously did with Beyonce last year, Keala does have one name she’d like to meet at the coveted awards ceremony later this year.

Related: Sergei Polunin: Ditch imposed gender roles and chase your dreams

“I’m excited to be there and hopefully Meryl Streep will be on the front row – that’s all I care about,” she giggles. “I just had an awards ceremony I went to Stateside and Dame Helen Mirren was being honoured and I did have to do an acceptance speech in front of her and I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to talk, actually! So mid-way through the acceptance speech, because I had nothing prepared, I just sang it!

And with that, Keala cleared her throat and gave us a first-hand example of why she should probably start clearing some space on her mantlepiece for a looming Oscar…

The Greatest Showman is out in cinemas now – including special sing-a-long performances. More information can be found here

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Jeffrey Tambor officially dropped from Transparent following sexual harassment claims

Amazon have officially fired Jeffrey Tambor from their hit series Transparent.

The critically-acclaimed show, which tells the story of a trans woman who comes out to her family late in life, has faced an unknown future since lead actor Tambor was accused of sexual harassment by two colleagues.

Amazon have now confirmed the decision to drop him from the show following an investigation.

Trace Lysette, one of Tambor’s co-stars on Transparent, alleged back in November that the actor had “made many sexual advances and comments” towards her and detailed one time that things got physical.

Prior to her allegations, Tambor’s former assistant Van Barnes claimed that he had propositioned her, groped her, made inappropriate comments and threatened her not to share her story.

Jill Soloway, creator of the Emmy-winning series, released a statement praising those who spoke out about their experiences.

“I have great respect and admiration for Van Barnes and Trace Lysette, whose courage in speaking out about their experience on Transparent is an example of the leadership this moment in our culture requires,” she wrote.

“We are grateful to the many trans people who have supported our vision for Transparent since its inception and remain heartbroken about the pain and mistrust their experience has generated in our community.

“We are taking definitive action to ensure our workplace respects the safety and dignity of every individual, and are taking steps to heal as a family.”

Lysette tweeted about the news, saying it offered her “some closure” and encouraged fans to keep supporting the show following Tambor’s departure.

Finally some closure I hope. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. Please show your support for @transparent_tv so we can make season 5 something great. Thank you all for your love and endless support ❤️ https://t.co/g0sbXJ70xt

— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) February 15, 2018

On Thursday, Tambor released a statement in response to Amazon’s decision, saying: “I am profoundly disappointed in Amazon’s handling of these false accusations against me.

“I am even more disappointed in Jill Soloway’s unfair characterization of me as someone who would ever cause harm to any of my fellow cast mates.

“In our four-year history of working together on this incredible show, these accusations have NEVER been revealed or discussed directly with me or anyone at Amazon. Therefore, I can only surmise that the investigation against me was deeply flawed and biased toward the toxic politicized atmosphere that afflicted our set.

“As I have consistently stated, I deeply regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone and I will continue to vehemently defend myself.

“I also deeply regret that this ground-breaking show, which changed so many lives, is now in jeopardy. That, to me, is the biggest heartbreak.”

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Taking the Buzz Word Out of Bias

Bias continues to be a big topic in diversity and inclusion, but there is more to culture change and changing mind-set than taking a test on bias. While understanding bias is one key to diversity and inclusion practices and behaviors, it can be used as a buzz word, “trend or flavor of the month,” or an academic polemic stuck in neuroscience conversations.bias

Before you decide on a program about bias, think about these two factors.

  1. Any program that includes bias training must go beyond simple recognition and include mitigation with real examples, accountability, and transformation.
  2. Training alone doesn’t bring about long-term change. You need to develop and implement an ongoing strategy for creating an inclusive culture that filters out bias in all areas. Transformation has to include people at every level in your organization and every business system and process.

Bias Basics

We have a filter in our brain that helps us interpret what we see and hear. It filters out information that is not threatening, not important, and not in our perceived reality.

We form our biases based on our experiences, what we hear and what we see.  Based on our biases, we make assumptions and stereotype other people. These stereotypes impact our actions, which can lead to exclusion, discrimination, or avoidance.

We’re not responsible for the messages we received growing up, but we are responsible for what we do once we become aware how these messages influence our thinking.

In addition, not all bias is unconscious. There is bias that is deliberate and conscious, and there is the bias that leads people to stereotypes others and believe they are right. When our bias is unconscious, we’re not aware of our actions and the impact that we have on others. When our bias is conscious or deliberate, we are aware of our actions, but think we are justified because of how we consciously feel about a whole group. It doesn’t occur to us that we might be wrong.

Learn how to create a culture of inclusion to avoid the damage hidden biases can cause to the workplace culture, when you attend: Unconscious and Systemic Bias: The Hidden Toll on Workplace Culture, Hiring, Productivity, and Retention, presented by Simma Lieberman on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. Click here to reserve your spot today!

If you think you either have no bias, know you may have unconscious bias, or that you sometimes stereotype others, try this.

Suggested action:

Be conscious of your visceral reaction or any thoughts or judgments you have about the next three people you see.  What story or impression immediately comes to mind before you give it second thought?

Notice their age, clothing, skin color,  and any other visible characteristics at the root of your bias and the first story you created.

Next, create a different story about what they do and who they are. Seeing other possibilities will help filter out your biases and wrong assumptions about people.

Point to ponder: When you have a disagreement with someone who is a different race or gender, is your first reaction to attribute the disagreement to his or her race or gender? But if you have the same disagreement with someone who is similar to you, is your first reaction to attribute it to him or her as an individual?

Bias buster: Stop thinking of individuals who are different as “representatives” of a whole group.  Take your brain off automatic and put it on manual. Stay conscious!

Our best clients who are creating inclusive cultures that last take the time to understand their own thinking even if they are uncomfortable. They’re willing to review every system, process, and cultural norm in their organization to root out opportunities for bias and exclusion.

Simma LiebermanSimma Lieberman is internationally known as “The Inclusionist,” because she creates inclusive workplaces where employees love to do their best work, and customers love to do business. In 2017. She received the Global Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award from the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai.

Ms. Lieberman works with leaders of organizations who understand that while training in areas of diversity and inclusion is important, sustainable change only occurs when diversity and inclusion are integrated into the business strategy, and are part of the organization’s cultural DNA. She strongly believes that implementing good diversity management and developing cultural intelligence are necessary for organizations to stay relevant and competitive in tomorrow’s markets.

Her unique ability to view organizations through an inclusion lens also enables her to help leaders in organizations uncover employee genius, and leverage their diverse talents and skills at any level.

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Pretextual Failure to Promote Produce Worker Is a Recipe for Disaster

HR professionals are all too familiar with the McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting standard for establishing discrimination from circumstantial evidence. Under the standard, an employee presents a prima facie (minimally sufficient) case that he belongs to a protected class and suffered an adverse action. The employer then presents a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its action, and he in turn tries to prove its stated reason is merely a pretext (false excuse) for discrimination.discrimination

Each McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting case is highly fact-specific, and—notwithstanding nearly 45 years of case law applying the standard—reasonable minds still disagree on how much evidence is required to support a finding of pretext. A recent case before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals— which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—demonstrates how tricky such situations can be.

What’s the Big Dill?

“Mike,” who is originally from Nigeria, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who recently experienced the ambiguity of the McDonnell-Douglas standard firsthand. “Neil,” the director of distribution at Safeway’s Denver distribution center, hired Mike to work in the produce warehouse in October 2004. During his employment, Mike furthered his education, earning a second bachelor’s degree (in finance) and an MBA. At some point, apparently following a complaint of discrimination, Neil promoted him to supervisor. The performance of the produce warehouse improved under his watch.

Despite his education, work experience, and achievements on the job, Mike was never able to rise higher up the management chain. In 2012, he applied for two open manager positions. In each case, Neil hired a white male instead.

Mike filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, alleging that Safeway discriminated against him because of his race, color, and national origin when it failed to hire him for either manager position. The district court rejected his claims and awarded summary judgment (dismissal without trial) to Safeway under the McDonnell-Douglas standard.

Mike’s allegations satisfied his prima facie burden, but Safeway argued it had a legitimate reason for not hiring him. It claimed it had hired other candidates with “far greater potential for success” and “more relevant warehouse management and leadership skills,” and it was concerned about his “leadership and communication skills.” The district court concluded he hadn’t presented sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the company’s justifications were pretextual.

It Ain’t Over Lentil It’s Over!

Dissatisfied with the result, Mike appealed the district court’s decision to the 10th Circuit. The appeals court revisited six types of pretext evidence he had presented:

(1) Job qualifications. An employee can show pretext through evidence of a sham review of a rejected candidate or unreasonable denigration of the rejected candidate’s qualifications but inflation of the successful candidate’s qualifications. In this case, the 10th Circuit concluded a reasonable juror could find that Mike, with his two bachelor’s degrees and MBA, was better educated than either manager Safeway hired. One didn’t have a college degree but had 20 years of experience in the Denver distribution center (10 as a supervisor), and the other—an external candidate with warehouse management experience at Chrysler and previous experience at a different Safeway distribution center—only had a bachelor’s degree in business.

Evidence that Mike met his individual and departmental goals and increased efficiency as a supervisor in the produce warehouse established that he had the experience and demonstrated performance to qualify him for the job. In fact, Safeway’s internal talent acquisitions team identified him as a candidate who should be considered for the manager openings, but Neil refused even to interview him.

(2) Procedural irregularities. Disturbing irregularities in employment procedures can also establish pretext. In this case, evidence showed that Safeway typically preferred managerial candidates with a college degree in logistics or business.

However, Neil acknowledged he had authority to—and did—modify the qualifications for the manager positions, limiting the preferred degree to logistics (not business) and allowing work experience to substitute for education. The 10th Circuit concluded that a reasonable juror could believe that these changes were made to rig the process against Mike’s superior educational background.

(3) Past treatment. An employer’s past treatment of an employee can be evidence of unlawful bias or animus, but stray racial comments aren’t admissible unless they’re tied to the personnel decisions or the decision makers. In this case, there was evidence that Neil had treated Mike worse than other employees and had made some remarks that could be perceived as race or national origin-based—such as telling him that his coworkers don’t perceive him well and that in the States, perception is reality; or saying “You can’t call me racist because I hired you.” Because these comments were made by the decision maker, a juror could consider them as evidence of pretext.

(4) Differential treatment. Differential treatment of similarly situated individuals is “especially relevant” to measuring the validity of an employer’s stated justification. In this case, Neil said he wouldn’t promote Mike because the produce warehouse had been underperforming for 10 years and because he struggled to control absenteeism and occupational injuries and had poor relations with coworkers. But one of the manager positions was filled by an internal candidate from the same underperforming warehouse who had been counseled about absenteeism and injury issues and didn’t get along with some employees. This differential treatment cast doubt on the veracity of Safeway’s justifications.

(5) Use of subjective criteria. The use of subjective criteria—such as the “potential for success” and “leadership and communication skills” standards used here—isn’t enough by itself to establish an inference of discrimination. But when such malleable criteria are the basis for an adverse employment action, their use can magnify the inferences raised from other evidence.

(6) Minority employment. A general policy or practice with respect to a disadvantaged group can also support other evidence of pretext. In this case, the Denver distribution center hadn’t had any African-American managers during Mike’s tenure with the company, and there hadn’t been any African-American supervisors until he was promoted (following a complaint of discrimination).

The 10th Circuit acknowledged that any one of those factors alone might be insufficient to establish pretext. But viewed properly all together, the court held that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable juror to disbelieve Safeway’s explanations for not promoting Mike. It thus reversed summary judgment for Safeway and sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

Meat and Potatoes

This case is a reminder that the line between legitimate and pretextual actions can be razor thin—here, even the courts disagreed. But it also underscores the importance of HR best practices that weren’t followed here (such as consistency in job descriptions and hiring protocols) and the value of job-placement audits that might identify and allow you to address potential biased decision makers before you face a lawsuit.

Charles McClellan—a partner with Foulston Siefkin—is a contributor to Kansas Employment Law Letter. You can reach him at (316) 291-9764 orcmcclellan@foulston.com.

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