I guess that I shouldn’t find it shocking anymore when I speak to people — many progressives, mind you — who have no idea that you can lose your job for being LGBT. As in, if your employer is a homophobe and decides they don’t want to have “that perversion” in their offices, they can call you into their office, or better yet, right into the middle of the office floor and fire you, stating your sexual orientation is the sole reason for showing you the door. Period.

And your only infraction might have been the gall to say that you and your partner went to the movies, or by simply displaying a photo of them on your desk.

Reactions are usually like “How can they do that?” or “That’s ridiculous in this day and age.”

My guess is that average allies (and even way too many LGBTs, sorry to say) not particularly wired  into political activism only see the social progress the LGBT equality movement has made that you see in news reports (repeal of DADT, the federal hate crimes law). They don’t notice the lack of consistency in basic civil rights around the country, much of it glossed over by the visible gains  in Blue states and municipalities, unless they know someone affected by discrimination.

The majority of the states in the U.S. are still state-sanctioned havens for homophobic employers.

This is why we need the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to be passed and signed into law — and it won’t happen with the current political composition on the Hill despite wide public support. ENDA would add protections for LGBTs by prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.

A recent high profile action brought employment discrimination into the limelight, when Ellen DeGeneres was targeted by “OneMillionMoms.com” - a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center hate group-certified American Family Association. It called for its supporters to contact J.C. Penney and demand that the company fire Ellen because she serves as its spokesperson.

Apparently you can catch TEH GAY via advertising.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) launched, after many bloggers sounded the alarm, a swift, successful campaign to raise visibility about the fragility of the LGBT community when it comes to employment non-discrimination.

“While designated hate groups try to start ‘culture wars,’ it’s clear that a vast majority of Americans today support Ellen as well as their LGBT friends and family members,” said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs and Communications at GLAAD. “Selecting an out performer who has inspired and entertained millions, is not only a smart business practice, but a reflection of how LGBT Americans today are an integral and valued part of the fabric of our culture.

“This week Americans spoke out in overwhelming support of LGBT people and J.C. Penney’s decision not to fire Ellen simply for who she happens to love,” said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs and Communications at GLAAD. “But while Ellen has the nation on her side, in 29 states today, Americans can still be legally fired just for being gay. Our elected officials should use this incident as yet another example of the support for legal protections for all hard working employees.”

Today, Americans can be fired in 29 states because of their sexual orientation, and in 34 states because of their gender identity.

Blogs including Joe My GodThink ProgressLez Get Real and Towleroad first broke the news about the American Family Association’s demands to fire Ellen and joined GLAAD in calling on community members and allies to thank J.C. Penney. In an overwhelming display of support, a poll on the Los Angeles Times site shows 94% of readers polled agree that Ellen should not only maintain her post as J.C. Penney’s spokesperson, but call Ellen “a symbol of equality.”

Jeremy Hooper of Good As You notes that “One Million Moms- a project of the American Family Association” has a long history of working to strip LGBT people of vital protections, including actions against Johnson & Johnson after the company extended domestic partner benefits to LGBT employees and Cracker Barrel after the chain added workplace protections for gay and lesbian employees.

The list of states where you can be fired for being LGBT is below the fold. My state, North Carolina, is one that made the sad list. While we are facing a marriage amendment at the polls on May 8, I have to tell you that it’s far more important for the movement as a whole, IMHO, if more attention had been paid to ENDA and educating the public the reasons behind it when there was a legislative window at an earlier point in the Obama admin.

It’s kind of telling that there is still so much political ignorance about this problem that the J.C. Penney/Ellen campaign needed to exist, but the LGBT community clearly hasn’t stepped up its game on this issue as it has on marriage equality or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Complacency in the movement, led by people who largely live in the places where local or state non-discrimination laws are on the books, only exacerbates the situation for LGBTs in Red and Purple states with retrograde legislatures.  It’s ironic, given ENDA would have helped more people come out of the closet and to be able to be advocates in their own communities if they didn’t fear losing their jobs in an already tough economy.

From GLAAD:

States where individuals can be fired for being gay:

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Ohio
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wyoming

States where individuals can be fired for being transgender:
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maryland
Michigan
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Ohio
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming