| LGBTQ & Civil Rights |
If you don’t know what LGBTQ stands for, then you can look it up when you have Internet access. Members of the LGBTQ community, which is a diverse community with many shades of the rainbow, face a variety of legal challenges. It is not uncommon, for the time being, to experience discrimination in employment, healthcare, housing and family matters.
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Federal civil rights laws currently provide no protections against discrimination based on sexual preference, nor does the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act provide any discrimination-protection based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Ethnic Intimidation Act, however, which was passed in 2002, does address hate-crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s sexual preference.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides anti-discrimination protection based on gender. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that employers who discriminate against employees who don’t fit gender stereotypes are engaging in illegal discrimination. This ruling may provide the grounds for a discrimination suit based on gender. For example, an employer who fires a female employee for failing to wear makeup could be vulnerable to such a suit. Another example would include a male employee who experienced sexual harassment for wearing an earring or 2. In both of these cases, the plaintiff’s sexual preference would be irrelevant, as would the presence of anti-gay animus on the part of the defendant.
Some localities, such as Erie County, protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Individual cities with such legislation include Allentown, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Pennsylvania State College also protects LGBTQ members from housing discrimination. Most Fortune 500 companies also have corporate policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which could be a significant factor in an employment suit. This patchwork of ordinances means that you may need to consult with an attorney who is familiar with civil-rights provisions in Pennsylvania to determine your specific protections.
Other legal issues confronting the LGBTQ community include drafting and entering of cohabitation agreements, the legal dissolution of same-sex relationships, including partition of jointly held real estate or other assets and same sex partner adoptions. At Woosley Naragon, we pride ourselves at being experienced in negotiating and drafting cohabitation agreements and filing partition actions.
A Cohabitation Agreement is a form of legal agreement reached between a heterosexual or homosexual couple who have chosen to live together (cohabit) without tying the knot. It establishes each party’s legal rights and responsibilities with regard to debt and assets, protecting each person from the costs and stress associated with litigation, in the event the partners decide they no long wish to live together. It allows both parties to regulate their property and designate what will happen to their property in the future. It also permits both parties to make arrangements regarding specific assets that they acquired before deciding to live together and/or assets that they anticipate they will acquire during the period of their bliss. Perhaps most importantly, it allows each party to set forth their agreement regarding child-related and parenting issues. These agreements are legally binding on both parties regarding financial issues. Custody and Child Support, however, is always modifiable and subject to review by the court.
A Partition Action is an option for LGBTQ couples who do not have an agreement and are faced with dissolution of their relationship and a need to divide jointly-titled real property.
Civil Rights, also known as § 1983 actions:
This is a complex area, but if you feel that your civil rights have been violated, please contact us and we’ll discuss it and come up with a plan.