90% of straight Americans OK with gay co-workers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

An annual US workplace survey has found that 79% of heterosexual adults think gay co-workers should be judged on how they do their job.

The 7th national Out & Equal Workplace Survey also found that 71% of heterosexuals agree that how an employee performs at their job should be the standard for judging them and not whether or not they are transgender.

Nine out of ten heterosexual adults said they would feel indifferent or feel positively upon learning that a co-worker was gay or lesbian, compared to one of ten who said that they would feel negatively.

It also found that 75% of heterosexuals feel that spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of gay and lesbian employees both should receive leave when they lose a spouse/partner or close family members.

64% said that spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of gay and lesbian employees both should receive untaxed health benefits under federal law.

The 2008 Out & Equal Workplace Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Out & Equal and Witeck-Combs Communications, among 2,637 US adults, of whom 343 self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The survey is an annual barometer of attitudes surrounding LGBT issues in the workplace and is the longest-running survey of its kind.

“It’s encouraging that heterosexuals appear more and more committed to ending these forms of employment discrimination and to extending equal benefits to all employees,” said Out & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry.

“Despite these recent strides, however, there remain far too few companies and jurisdictions that provide meaningful protections to all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is still much progress to be made in today’s workplace and in society itself.”

LGBT respondents reported experiencing discrimination and many still feel the need to conceal their sexual orientation.

65% of gays and lesbians faced some sort of discrimination in the workplace and 47% heard anti-gay comments on the job.

36% of gays and lesbians say they remain closeted at work. 20% reported being harassed on the job by co-workers.

The survey also suggests that public education is needed on the lack of protections that exist today in the workplace for LGBT employees.

Despite their support for LGBT rights, 61% of heterosexuals are still unaware that under US federal law it is legal for an employer to fire someone because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Last week new research from a lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans civil rights group revealed that the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their employment nondiscrimination policies.

Equality Forum reported that 471 (94.2%) of the top 500 American corporations voluntarily include sexual orientation.

Attempts by the US Congress to pass a federal law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Americans from workplace discrimination fell apart last year amid acrimonious claims and counter-claims over trans rights.

In November the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was passed by the House by 235 to 184.

ENDA was originally designed to make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or promote a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision to remove trans people from the scope of the legislation caused anger among the LGBT community in the US, with many demanding an “all or nothing” stance.

Many of the House Democrats serving their first term did not want ENDA to include protections for trans people, fearful of a backlash from conservatives.

President Bush has already indicated he would veto ENDA.

The White House expressed constitutional concerns that the proposal could “trample” religious rights.

Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama favours including sexual orientation in federal workplace protection laws.

His Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, opposes the bill.