john oliver
Credit: HBO

John Oliver is on a roll. From his investigation into America’s uneven and faulty sex ed programs a few weeks back to his expose last week of fraudulent televangelists, Oliver has opened our eyes time and time again to issues we need to take action on.

This past Sunday was no different. In this week’s show, Oliver took on LGBTQ discrimination in America.

“It is true that discriminating against gay people is surprisingly legal in much of the country,” Oliver explains around the 3-minute mark of the video below. “In 31 states people are at risk of being fired, evicted, or refused service just because they’re gay. While federal law may guarantee a gay couple’s right to get married,it offers exactly 0 guarantees regarding the things that normally follow that.” Oliver then cites examples of signing leases or applying for loans with banks.

Oliver goes on to give us a stat collected in a 2013 survey that reveals almost 70% of Americans believe that it is “illegal under federal law to fire someone for being gay or a lesbian.” Oliver acknowledges that this “feels like it should be true,” but, unfortunately, in too many areas of the country, discrimination is all too legal.

“Some states and cities do have good protections,” Oliver later says, ” and I suppose we could wait for every state to catch up, but there are certain issues too important to be left to the states, specifically state rights…”

Oliver is advocating for LGBTQ protection at a federal level and he brings up a few instances in which protections have recently been put into place.

“There have been some positive moves at the federal level. Just last month, the EEOC [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] ruled that the Civil Rights Act applies to LGB workers, and a year ago, the President added LGBT protections for federal contract workers, all of which is great, but those protections could be undone by his successor.”

Oliver then goes on to point out that “religious beliefs” are often the reason given by those discriminating against the LGBT community, and he quickly points out that there are “limits to Constitutional rights” and one’s religion does not give one the right to discriminate.

“The problem is, there are still way too many states that don’t have any anti-discrimination laws at all,” Oliver states. “Which is why, maybe, it’s time we just fix all of this, nationwide, in one go. And interestingly, there is something called the ‘Equality Act’ in Congress right now which adds LGBTQ protections to the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and others.”

Even though this bill has 200 sponsors in the House and Senate, as Oliver points out, none of those sponsors are Republican, and Oliver spends much of this segment dissecting Republican presidential candidate’s obtuse and confusing responses to what are straightforward civil rights questions.

The fifteen-minute video below is well worth the full watch (though there are a few NSFW lines in here, so earbuds on, office workers). It is horrifying that we don’t have federal laws protecting the LGBTQ community from this despicable level of discrimination, and we are grateful to John Oliver for breaking this issue down for us and helping us understand just how broken this system is and just how much work we have to do to fix this country for our LGBTQ community.


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