One of the biggest news stories of the second part of 2011 has been the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS). I am a huge supporter of their goals and bristle when people say that although it’s nice, they “really don’t stand for anything”! The occupy wall street movement may lack unified leadership, but their primary message is consistent and resonates with the majority of Americans. “End corporate ownership of our elected officials and return our democracy back to the people.” Simple. Rational. Just.
The more I thought about the goals of OWS I wounded if there is any special reason for the GLBT community to be supportive of the movement. It did not take long to come up with some very important reasons. The most common thread of agreement in the OWS movement is that people feel a sense of detachment and that the system is rigged to keep people from succeeding. The economic disparity was also ranked highly. That is of special concern to the GLBT community. According to a recent study in the US, gay men who live together earn 23 percent less than married men, and 9 percent less than unmarried heterosexual men who live with a woman. (“Sexual Orientation and Labor Market Discrimination,” (Bruce T. Elmslie, Ph.D. with Edinaldo Tebaldi), Journal of Labor Research, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2007.)
This study shows a dramatic difference with the plight of gay men in Europe. According to the Guardian Newspaper in London, Gay men in full-time jobs earn on average £34,200 a year, compared with the national average in the UK for men of £24,800. Lesbians earn £6,000 more than the national average for women. It is believed that some of the disparity in the US is related to employer disapproval of the gay lifestyle, fears about offending customers and fears concerning the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
The number one goal of any corporation is to provide investors with the highest return possible with the lowest investment of resources. People are considered recourses. As corporations force employees to do more and more with less and less he workplace has become unbearable for many. We are also seeing another result of this and that is a growing disparity in the workplace. Employee benefits are bing cut or trimmed back and the direct result of that is an inequity in employee benefits between straight and gay employees.
It is imperative that we fight for equality in the work place. It seems sometimes we are seeing recent advancements being stripped away under the guise of protecting religious liberty. Michigan recently passed an anti-bullying bill that carved out an approval of “biblical-based bullying.” As more and more states allow for marriage equality we see more and more businesses claiming to right to refuse service to gays due to religious beliefs. We also see government official’s refusing to carry out their duties to register gay and lesbian relationships due to their religious intolerance. They people further demand that the rules governing public service be changed to allow them to keep their job while carrying out their acts of discrimination. This overt and institutionalized bigotry and discrimination can best be exemplified by the aggressive efforts by the GOP and their religious base to reinstitute “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” within our military, despite the overwhelming support for it’s repeal.
For this reason, it’s urgent that Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We must have total equality in the work place. Such fairness in the workplace is one of the goals of the OWS movement and should be a rallying point for the GLBT community.
It is also a goal of many in the OWS movement to repeal DOMA, which puts Gays and Lesbians at an unfair tax and insurance disadvantage. Fairness in the workplace is one of the goals of the OWS movement and should be a rallying point for the GLBT community.
OWS also recognizes that social service resources have dried up over the last decade as government budgets were cut to off set tax decreases for the wealthiest one percent and corporations. Due to the budget cuts caused by these tax cuts, services for homeless youth and youth counseling are harder and harder to come by. In New York City there are about 3500-4000 homeless youths on the street on any given night. As these children struggle to survive, they become prime targets for drug dealers and prostitution rings. Funding to provide services to this at risk population have dwindled to the point of being nearly non-existent. A recent study reported on the Huffington Post indicates that almost 40% of these homeless youth identify as gay. Since gay youth are often kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality, or flee to escape bullying, it is not surprising that they would end up on the streets. The absence of funding and services to help these children is evidence of the warped priorities of our elected leaders who owe allegiance to no one expect the corporations who fill their campaign coffers.
A large component of the OWS movement is a commitment to reestablishing the social safety net that has been chipped away over the past decade. OWS protests the fact that our political leaders have become servants of the wealthy and corporations while ignoring majority of our nation. OWS stands against the continued practice of allowed the poor and disenfranchised to suffer to benefit these same individuals and entities. It is important that the GLBT community remember that these same practices by our leaders disproportionally impact the GLBT community, particularly our youth.
These are just a few examples of why GLBT people should support and learn more about the OWS movement. What are your reasons?