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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Non-Discrimination is the Name of the Game at LGBT Career Fair

By Maia Spotts-

There's not much super fun about a job interview. Uncomfortable suit, explaining that six month gap on your resumé, having to say, "I think my biggest fault is that I'm a perfectionist" with a straight face. And, for some, waiting for that moment when you may have to address the fact that you're not heterosexual.

After law school I had an interview with a high-powered attorney. Everything was going really well, and then he started reading over my resumé. And I knew what was coming. "What's OUTlaw?" Here we go. "OUTlaw is an on-campus organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students." Pause. "Oh."
I can't say with any shred of conviction that the man interviewing me was anti-gay. (Although his current stance as a candidate for California State Attorney General gives me a clue...) But personally, I felt a heaviness for the rest of the interview, as though where he used to see smart, accomplished law student he now only saw lesbian. I didn't want it to be a factor, but I didn't want to leave OUTlaw off of my resumé, either. In any case, I got the job.

I thought of that yesterday, when I walked into the career fair at Lavender Law, the annual LGBT Bar Association legal conference, which was a sight to behold. A huge room, packed table after table with law firms, legal companies, non-profits, the Department of Justice, all companies with non-discrimination policies firmly in place, all seeking to interview the best and brightest LGBT law students this country has to offer.
When a company steps up and actively participates in the recruitment of LGBT students it sends a message. And the message is simple: we want you to work for us, and we respect you as a crucial part of our workforce. The sense of relief in the room was palpable. I overheard one eager job seeker saying how she was so glad to not have to use her "closet" cards -- those wiped clean of any LGBT references.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) doesn't have the power to erase bigotry, but it does have the power to elevate LGBT candidates to a higher level of respect and empowerment than we currently enjoy in searching for a job. It would give us all the freedom to walk in to a job interview and expose as much, or as little, of our personal life as we choose without fear that our sexual orientation will trump our merit.


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