ROCHESTER, NY, April 15, 2011: Nearly 200 openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business leaders and their allies gathered yesterday in Rochester for a cutting edge forum on equal rights in the workplace. 

Kicking off the event was Selisse Berry, the founding executive director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, the nation’s leading LGBT workplace organization. She energized the group, speaking on the state of the movement for workplace equality, noting the many gains made so far and the need for continuing work both on corporate policies and on legislation to ban discrimination. Her address came on the same day that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the U.S. Senate; Out & Equal strongly supports the passage of this legislation.

At lunch time, participants learned more about The Levi Strauss & Co.’s stand for marriage equality through their White Knot Campaign in Support of Marriage Equality. The company’s Enrique Atienza addressed the group and responded to questions about the reasons the corporation felt it was important to take a clear stance on equal rights. Levi Strauss stores in California and New York—two states were marriage initiatives have been under consideration in recent times—displayed mannequins wearing the white knots that indicate support for equal marriage rights.

In addition to the two featured presentations, the event included seventeen high-quality workshops from both business leaders and advocacy groups. Topics ranged from current issues, such as the impact of bullying, to building strong groups for LGBT employees, to addressing critical human resources topics, such as equitable benefits and health insurance. Workshops also considered the needs of diverse groups, such as transgender employees, straight allies, and those seeking to integrate spirituality into their working lives. A full list of workshops can be found on our blog.

Berry commented, “Out & Equal loves to bring together groups like this—committed business leaders, LGBT employees and executives, human resources folks—so we can  talk together about the ways in which we can improve the working lives of LGBT people. And, it’s also a time to celebrate just how much we’ve accomplished to ensure that our workplaces are fair and safe for everyone.”