Although homosexuality is far more accepted as a lifestyle now than it was 15 years ago (in May 2002, 52% of Gallup poll respondents thought homosexual relations should be legal, compared to only 33% who felt this way in 1987), many homosexual men and women still strive to gain equal footing in the workplace. In the United States, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1996, this act was defeated in the House of Representatives by a slim margin and it has not come up for a vote again since then despite pleas from supporters.
Gallup polls conducted in the past year would suggest that most Americans and Canadians believe, in general, that gays and lesbians should have equal access to employment opportunities. However, when asked about specific jobs, Canadians are more accepting than their southern neighbors. Americans appear to be less open than Canadians in regard to equal rights for gays and lesbians in the military and in teaching occupations.
Equal Opportunities For Employment
An overwhelming majority of North Americans believe that homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities. Americans were asked the question: "As you may know, there has been considerable discussion in the news regarding the rights of homosexual men and women. In general, do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?"* Eighty-six percent of U.S. residents said yes. Canadians were asked a very similar question: "In general, do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?"** Ninety-two percent of Canadians answered affirmatively to this question.
While equal rights for homosexuals in the job market overall are predominantly acceptable, sentiments are quite different when respondents are asked about the acceptability of homosexuals performing specific jobs, especially teaching jobs and the clergy.
Both Americans and Canadians view the clergy and elementary school teachers to be the least acceptable vocations for homosexuals to occupy. Only about half (54%)*** of U.S. adults and 62% of Canadians believe that the clergy is a suitable job for homosexuals.
The greatest disparity between Americans and Canadians on this issue is in their acceptance of homosexuals as elementary school teachers, with Americans less in favor of homosexuals in this role than are Canadians. More than two-thirds (69%) of Canadians are accepting of homosexuals as elementary school teachers, compared to 56% of Americans. Four out of 10 Americans oppose the idea of homosexuals teaching young children, while only 29% of Canadians hold this view.
While North Americans find career choices for homosexuals in the armed forces, government, medical profession and sales to be more acceptable than in the teaching profession or the clergy, the trend of more acceptance among Canadians than Americans exists for these professions as well. About three-quarters of Americans believe that homosexuals should be employed in the armed forces (72%), the President's Cabinet (75%) or as doctors (78%). More than 80% of Canadians support homosexuals in each of these roles. Both Canadians (94%) and Americans (91%) are very accepting of homosexuals in sales positions.
Overall, Canadians seem to be somewhat more accepting of homosexuals in the workplace than are Americans. But both Canadians and Americans are more accepting of the general concept of homosexuals in the workplace than they are of homosexuals in specific types of job positions, like clergy members and elementary school teachers.
*Results based on 1012 telephone interviews with American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-14, 2001. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%.
**Results based on 1001 telephone interviews with Canadian adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 12-18, 2001. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%.
***Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 6-9, 2002. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%.