Earlier this year, the Census Bureau said that there were approximately 900,000 same-sex couples living in the United States. They also reported that there were same-sex spouses living in every state of the union. While the figures were revised to be nearly 250,000 couples less later in the year, they still have a few major implications for employers—as there is an increasing visibility and awareness of gays and lesbians throughout the country.
Off the bat, it is important that all people confront what it means to be a couple, spouse and/or partnered in a social sense. Taking a progressive step, the Census Bureau’s evaluating the gay and lesbian couple demographic is a symbolic gesture toward the direction society is going in—one that recognizes the existence and market for gays and lesbians. One’s business dealings should be in keeping with the make up of the general public. As such, business leaders and employees alike should use not only the figures, but the move to even locate and report such figures as a catalyst to reevaluate their approach and understanding of relationships more broadly conceived. Marriage can and does included members of the same sex in some states. Long term gay and lesbian relationship exist everywhere.
Secondly, employers and employees should approach their workplace with the understanding that there is likely a gay, lesbian, and/or bisexual among them—maybe even beside them. Heteronormative assumptions that lead people to believe that LGB communities do not extend beyond stereotypical borders and spaces have been troubled by the Census findings that same-sex spouses exist in every state, including states that do not legally recognize. While it may not be that your coworkers, teammate or boss is in a committed relationship, the community continues to become more visible meaning that you will more than likely be sharing a space with someone that may be openly gay outside of the workplace.
Finally, as gays and lesbians continue to identify themselves in the workplace, employers must give serious thought to offering equalized domestic partner benefits. While some companies may be hesitant, creating a supportive work environment goes beyond sensitivity training. For thousands of same-sex couples, a supportive workplace extends to the benefits that their respective employer offers to them and their families.
About the Author
Michael Collins is the Research and Publications Analyst of Diversity Best Practices.
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