Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations

Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations

Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations

Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations


From the first game of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs on April 22, 1876, tens of thousands of men have played professional sports in the Big Four--baseball, basketball, football, and hockey--major professional sports leagues in the United States. Until April 29, 2013, however, when National Basketball Association center Jason Collins came out publicly as gay, not one of those tens of thousands of men had ever come out to the public as gay while an active player on a major league roster. Is it because gay men can't jump (or throw, or catch, or skate)? Or is it more likely that the costs of coming out are too high?

In Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations, E. Gary Spitko argues that in the case of athletes, and others in role-model occupations, a record of widespread and frequently systematic employment discrimination has been excluding gay people from the public social spaces that identify and teach whom society respects and whom members of society should seek to emulate. Creating a typology of role models--lawyers/judges, soldiers, teachers, politicians, athletes, and clergy--and the positive values and character traits associated with them, Spitko demonstrates how employment discrimination has been used for the purpose of perpetuating the generally accepted notion that gay people are inferior because they do not possess the requisite qualities--integrity, masculinity, morality, representativeness, all-American-ness, and blessedness--associated with employment in these occupations.

Combining the inspirational stories of LGBT trailblazers with analysis of historical data, anecdotal evidence, research, and literature, Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations is the first book to explore in a comprehensive fashion the broad effects of sexual orientation discrimination in role-model occupations well beyond its individual victims.


In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment preclude a state from denying marriage recognition to same-sex couples. Unquestionably, Obergefell was a monumental advance for gay civil rights. The arrival of marriage equality, however, does not signify that the struggle for gay equality has been won. Thus, a certain peril arises from the view that marriage recognition for same-sex couples is an apotheosis. Indeed, the prioritization of marriage equality by gay civil rights groups and the intense focus of popular media on the fight for marriage equality in recent years have tended to obscure from public attention the significant obstacles to gay equality that continue to exist.

Equal employment opportunity for gay people remains a vital but unrealized goal. Numerous empirical studies conducted over the last four decades suggest that sexual orientation discrimination is a persistent and pervasive phenomenon in American labor markets. Despite such evidence, concerted efforts to enact legislation that would protect workers from sexual orientation discrimination have met with only limited success. No federal statute expressly proscribes such discrimination. Moreover, only twentytwo states as well as the District of Columbia prohibit private employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Aside from the issue of the extent to which sexual orientation discrimination is common in American labor markets is the question of why employers might discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation. That question is the focus of this book. In many cases, no doubt, mere animus toward gay people motivates the employer’s discrimination: some people find gay people repugnant and do not wish to associate with them. In other cases, the employer’s belief in a stereotype— . . .

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