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‘Family’ Groups: Being Respectful To LGBT Coworkers Is An ‘Attack On Freedom’

By Zack Ford

"‘Family’ Groups: Being Respectful To LGBT Coworkers Is An ‘Attack On Freedom’"

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Earlier this week, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber revealed a brochure that was distributed at the Department of Justice called, ““LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” Developed by the DOJ Pride, the department’s LGBT and allies employee group, it outlines several simple suggestions for making sure the workplace is a safe and inclusive space. Barber claimed it was an “attack on freedom… riddled with directives that grossly violate – prima facie –employees’ First Amendment liberties.”

Tony Perkins echoed this ominous sentiment in the Family Research Council’s Washington Update Wednesday:

When the Justice Department is done violating journalists’ First Amendment rights, it looks like they’ll move on to employees’. In a chilling memo to DOJ staff, the Obama administration is warning managers that they’d better start embracing homosexuality–or else. The email, which a Justice employee leaked to Liberty Counsel, is a scary reminder of how far this administration will go to crush free speech and expression in America.

The full brochure can be read online. Here are some of the tips — suggestions, not rules — that Barber and Perkins object to and the context they leave out to make them sound more chilling:

  • DON’T judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval. What neither Barber or Perkins mention is that this is advice given under the heading, “Know how to respond if an employee comes out to you.” The converse suggestion is, “DO respond with interest and curiosity. Asking respectful questions will set a positive, supportive tone.”
  • DO use a transgender person’s chosen name and the pronoun that is consistent with the person’s self-identified gender. Barber admits he believes this basic respect for a person’s identity constitutes lying. Objecting to this suggestion is blatant transphobia, more of which is apparent throughout the rest of his post.
  • DO assume that LGBT employees and their allies are listening to what you’re saying (whether in a meeting or around the proverbial water cooler) and will read what you’re writing (whether in a casual email or in a formal document), and make sure the language you use is inclusive and respectful. This has nothing to do with spying. It’s simply encouraging individuals to avoid making a joke or snide comment about LGBT people and assuming it’ll never get back to them.
  • DO communicate a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate jokes and comments, including those pertaining to a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Apparently encouraging people not to be rude and offensive constitutes chilling their free speech.

Though it is a bottom-up document with no enforcement whatsoever, the mere thought of creating an LGBT-inclusive workplace is apparently quiet disconcerting to these conservatives. Perkins even jabs, “Imagine the level of workplace harassment Christians would face if viewpoint coercion were official U.S. policy” — i.e. if the Employment Non-Discrimination Act were passed into law. Of course, if a guide were put out with suggestions for not harassing Christians, that would conceivably be just as chilling to free speech, at least by their standards.

Perkins takes exception that LGBT equality is about “forced acceptance,” but as blogger Alvin McEwen points out, it’s actually about “respect for a fellow human being.” Groups like Liberty Counsel and FRC specifically do not want LGBT employees to enjoy basic respect in the workplace, and that’s one of many reasons they are designated as hate groups.

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