Why LGBTQI Issues Still Matter
It would seem on the face of things that there is nothing left to discuss or be concerned about. The long fight for marriage equality has been won. The history of how this happened is important and it’s this history which illustrates why it is still important to be concerned and pay attention to what this new administration may try to do. While the President is not overtly anti-gay, many in his administration clearly are; including a very scary Vice President.
In the 1970s, civil rights campaigning for same-sex marriages began. This issue became prominent around 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. This ruling led to a severe backlash which resulted in federal actions, and actions by many states to restrict marriage to male-female couples only; commonly known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). During a 12-year period from 2003 to 2015 same-sex marriage was legalized to some degree in 38 out of 50 US states. In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of DOMA declaring that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to refuse to treat same-sex marriages equally with regard to federal benefits, since state laws had created them as equally valid. The ruling focused on the federal government’s refusal to grant federal benefits but still left the question of marriage laws to individual states. Two years later on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state level bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional and same-sex marriage became fully legal, country-wide.
In 2015, the same year that marriage became legal throughout the country, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives titled First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This bill’s aim is to stop the federal government from taking action against anyone who discriminates against others based on their belief that a marriage is defined as only between a man and a woman. This would essentially legalize discrimination against the LGBTQI community and begin to erode hard won rights. Nothing much happened with this bill and it was never voted on. However, the current President indicated that he would sign this bill if it came to him after passing through the republican controlled house and senate.
Another area of MAJOR concern is that soon after the current President assumed office there was a leaked copy of a Religious Freedom Executive Order that was made public. It is said to be in the process of being reworked currently. This goes even further than FADA in that it would grant the right to any person or group to deny services to LGBTQI folks if they claimed “religious freedom”. This discrimination would not just be limited to a bakery refusing to bake a wedding cake but could extend to all walks of life including employment, housing, health care, etc. This would have the potential to be devastating to many in the queer community.
Along these same lines, there has been an alarming trend with individual states rolling back protections. Bathroom rights for trans people are threatened, student groups in KY can discriminate against LGBTQI high school and college students, and in South Dakota gay folks can not adopt children.
So, there is still plenty to be concerned about as rights and protections are being chipped away at. Legislations and executive orders are in process which aim to undermine equal rights and protections for this marginalized community. Vigilance and action when needed are important and still matter.
Local Resource: Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County; programs, events, thrift store.