I Heart NY!Posted: July 9, 2011
As you may have heard, New York legislators recently signed a same sex marriage law for their citizens (in case you have been on vacation, here is the NY Times article – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html). This makes NY the largest state to pass a law like this to date. The influence this decision has on the country is also significant, since NY is a barometer of potential future trends and change movements.
The decision aside, HR professionals are now confronted with changing policies and programs to meet the mandates of this new legislation. I spoke to someone I know who works for in HR at a major university in New York City and they shared some comments from their peers with me. Apparently, the biggest challenge is not the integration of benefit structures (although, this is a task in itself) or the tax implications but rather the training and education of staff members to be aware and respect those who will be entering into same sex marriages within the state. With all the open-mindedness of some parts of NY, there are areas where this law will still not allow those who enter into same sex unions to be acknowledged openly and publicly. NPR had a story the other day about this topic (http://www.npr.org/2011/07/07/137672101/coming-to-work-but-not-coming-out). While laws and policy are great on paper, changing the attitudes and perspectives of some people is a much more challenging task. Especially same sex marriage may violate some convictions held by those with certain religious and personal feelings against it. It is easy to say “just get over it” to those who are opposed to same sex unions, but those who are anti gay marriage need to heard and integrated into the new law. Remember, we always agree to disagree. The key is to respect each other’s thoughts and feelings and see the value each can bring to the table. We spend so much of our lives at work and it should be an environment of collaboration and regard. Yes, it may sound like some sort of Utopia, but this is the root of Diversity and Inclusion thought and as HR rofessionals we need to be looking at it from this perspective.
In 2011, it is amazing to me that some groups are still thought of as “weird” or “different”, even to the point of being targeted for aggression and violence. We all have feelings and prejudices but the key is to keep them in check and respect others. I find it particularly interesting when I hear other HR professionals share personal (and sometimes vehement) feelings about religious or political topics. We are all welcome to our opinions (hey, it is AMERICA!) but we need to make sure we do all we can to promote and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace. Whatever your feelings are about what happened in NY (and 6 other states as well as a Native American tribe), the tide is moving toward national recognition of same sex unions and marriage. Will you and your company be ready?
Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!