FORT MYERS, Fla. “It’s four words — four words that will give some peace of mind to some of their employees that don’t have it.”
Sexual orientation and gender identity are the four words LGBT activist Arlene Goldberg says are missing from Lee County’s revised Equal Employment Opportunity policy.
“They’re aware of what we are doing,” she said. “They seemed receptive, but they apparently weren’t.”
County commissioners spent several months working to update the policy, stating they “embrace the multiple views, lifestyles and background of our employees.”
However, Goldberg doesn’t believe the policy protects the rights of the LGBT community.
Although commissioners assured her federal guidelines passed during President Obama’s administration proved protection for the LGBT community, Goldberg is worried they may be overturned.
“In this Trump administration, we don’t know whether or not they’ll be rescinded,” she said. “We need be protected locally. If they rescind them federally, we’ll still have them locally.”
This fight also hits home for Goldberg.
Carol Goldwasser, her spouse of nearly 50 years, worked for the county for 17 years and both felt they needed to hide their relationship throughout that time.
“They aren’t who they are,” Goldberg said. “They can’t tell their friends about their lives. They can’t put a picture on their desk. I’m not saying the county will fire somebody for being an LGBT person. Not at all. What I’m saying is it could happen because there are no protections.”
The Lee County government is currently the largest employer in the county with no workplace protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
County commissioners will discuss the new employment policy on June 20.
Cape Coral enacted their LGBTQ protections in January.