Tucked into Apple CEO Tim Cook's Thursday op-ed in which he publicly came out for the first time was a section where he tackled the issue of workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans.
"The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant," Cook wrote. "Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies."
Just last week, Cook took his home state, Alabama, to task for moving "too slow on equality for the LGBT community," noting that Alabama still allows employees to be fired based on sexual orientation.
Which got us thinking: Are there other states where Cook, who runs arguably the most important, eagerly watched technology company on the planet, could be fired for being gay?
And the answer, sadly, is yes. While 18 states and Washington, D.C. have employment non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, there are no state laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states and gender identity in 33 states. Among them: Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan.
However, a 2012 Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling extended Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination to bar discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. Also, according to the Movement Advancement Project, many states have executive orders or laws that protect all public employees and many large cities have ordinances or personnel policies that protect local employees.)
(Map courtesy of ACLU)
That doesn't change the fact that Cook, or any other out executive or worker, could be fired in more than half the states in the country after coming out. According to a study released by the Human Rights Campaign earlier this year, "The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion," most LGBT employees -- 53 percent -- nationwide are closeted on the job.
Some other stats from the report:
>> Over 80 percent of non-LGBT workers report that conversations about social lives, relationships and dating come up weekly and often daily and 81 percent feel that LGBT people "should not have to hide who they are at work."
>> One in four LGBT employees report hearing negative comments such as "that’s so gay" at work
>> Thirty-five percent of LGBT employees felt compelled to lie about their personal lives while at work.
>> A majority of Fortune 500 companies have extended workplace protection on the basis of sexual orientation (91 percent) and gender identity (61 percent).