Union members joined the party at the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade in Minneapolis yesterday, cheering the Supreme Court’s historic decision making marriage equality the law of the land.
“We’re always fighting; it feels good to be celebrating for a change,” Charli Haataja, a member of Local 7250 of the Communications Workers of America, said.
Haataja was among more than 50 people who marched in the parade behind the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s banner. [Click here to view photos of the marching unit on Facebook.] The labor federation has maintained a presence in the parade for years, and Minnesota unions – and unions across the country – have been staunch allies in fight for LGBT rights.
“We want to show our solidarity with other workers no matter if they’re gay, straight, transgender – it doesn’t matter,” CWA Local 7250 member Alaric Poseley-Hatton said. “We fight for equality in the workplace, and it’s great to have equality in marriage too.”
In a 5-4 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court found states that deny same-sex couples the right to marry are in violation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws. The ruling extends marriage rights to same-sex couples in all 50 states.
July 1 will mark the two-year anniversary of marriage equality in Minnesota, where lawmakers moved swiftly to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples after the state’s voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2012. Minnesota unions and labor organizations, including the Minnesota AFL-CIO, joined the coalition of groups fighting for marriage equality.
The Supreme Court ruling means same-sex couples wed in Minnesota will maintain their married status no matter where in the U.S. they go. Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, called it “a win for children, families, workers and our entire country.”
LGBT workers’ rights, in particular, need strengthening, as most states do not have laws protecting all workers from discrimination on the job as a result of sexual orientation. Jerame Davis, director of the labor-backed advocacy group Pride at Work, said there remains a “very real possibility that a worker could marry the person they love on Saturday and then get fired from their job Monday morning when they show pictures around the water cooler.”
“There’s still a fight out there,” Claire Zupatz, a member of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, said. “If you can do the job, you should be able to go and do the work and not be afraid of being fired because of your lifestyle.”
Collective bargaining agreements, of course, provide protection from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but union contracts cover only a fraction of the private-sector workforce.
LGBT workers also face more subtle forms of discrimination in the workplace – union and non-union alike, Laborers Local 563 member Joanne Hager said.
“In the construction trades, it’s sometimes difficult to be open about who you are,” Hager said. “There is some homophobia in our industry, as in all industries.
“We’re in need of more workers in our industry, and we need to make sure these jobs are inclusive of everyone who wants to work to support their families.”
Hager and her 13-year-old daughter, Amelia, marched in the Pride Parade wearing hardhats and carrying a homemade banner that proclaimed, “Building MN with Quality and PRIDE!”
“People should be equally treated and not discriminated against because of who they love,” Amelia Hager said.