Here in Virginia LGBT citizens can be fired for being LGBT and can face fully legal discrimination in housing. Meanwhile, poll after poll reveals - both in Virginia and across America - most Americans believe that anti-LGBT discrimination is illegal even as the Trump/Pence regimes works to convince a rightward leaning U.S. Supreme Court that anti-LGBT discrimination should be fully legal and outside the protections of existing civil rights laws. In Virginia in November, 2019, the state of affairs can change if control of the Virginia General Assembly shifts to Democrats and Republicans are voted out of a majority in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. In 2020, the same opportunity for change exists if (i) Trump is not re-elected, and (ii) Republicans lose control of the U.S. Senate. A piece in The Atlantic looks at the unfinished work to be done in the area of LGBT rights and the mess that exists in a majority of states where gays can marry on the weekend and be fired on Monday for being gay.
To me, the ultimate irony is that civil rights laws are supposed to protect against immutable characteristics such as skin color, country of one's birth, age, sex. Medical and medical health knowledge tells us that sexual orientation cannot be changed - despite the lies disseminated by Christofascist proponents of "conversion therapy." Indeed, of currently protected categories, only one is NOT immutable: religion. People can and do change religious affiliation all the time while others leave it entirely based on things ranging from Christian hypocrisy to the reality that neither science nor historical evidence confirm the gospel narratives. If any category deserves not non-discrimination protection, it is religion. embracing myths and ignorance is a choice. One's sexual orientation is not. The Equality Act passed by the House of Representatives which contains no religious exemptions recognizes this simple reality. Here are article highlights:
Roughly half of Americans think federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Despite four years of nationwide same-sex marriage, despite rapidly growing cultural acceptance for LGBTQ people, despite extensive annual Pride celebrations—these Americans are wrong. Now that all of this summer’s glitter floats have been dismantled and the rainbow confetti has been cleared, lawyers, legislators, and judges have turned back to the ongoing fight over whether federal law does, and should, specifically protect LGBTQ people from being fired, denied a rental lease, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This year will mark several important milestones in the battle over LGBTQ discrimination. In the spring, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a sweeping bill that would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in all aspects of public and commercial life, without any religious exemptions. While the bill has basically no chance of gaining traction in this Senate, if Democrats sweep Congress in 2020, it will likely be high on the party’s priority list. In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens, about a former funeral director who was fired after coming out to her employer as transgender. The justices will consider whether existing workplace protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
And yet, the legal status of LGBTQ rights remains murky. As the movement has gained cultural momentum, activists have largely moved away from a posture of compromise—they believe they can win full protections for LGBTQ people in any context, without exceptions. A small but significant group of conservative religious leaders has been working the middle ground, trying to build support for a bill that would protect LGBTQ people but leave space for institutions, such as Christian colleges and Catholic hospitals, to operate according to their religious teachings. But they’ve faced resistance from their right, with prominent pastors and conservative legal groups opposed to any kind of bill that would mark sexual orientation and gender identity as special legal categories.
As America has largely moved on from its gay-rights moment, with many Americans believing everything got taken care of with same-sex marriage, legal advocates on both sides have been left with bitter disagreements about where the country should go next—and the possibility that the status quo will perpetually remain in place.
[Lying and dishonest] Conservative advocates argue that LGBTQ people face little to no discrimination, and that their identities have been normalized . . . . Ask LGBTQ people themselves, however, and they consistently see discrimination in their daily lives: A recent study from the Williams Institute at UCLA found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people reported much higher rates of being bullied, fired, or denied a job, promotion, or lease compared with heterosexual people.
Still, these experiences can be subtle or hard to document. And the incentives for bringing a formal, legal complaint vary wildly, depending on where someone lives: 20 states fully prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while 28 states don’t.
“Because it doesn’t look just like Jim Crow,” said Doug NeJaime, a law professor at Yale University who focuses on LGBTQ legal issues, conservatives argue that “it then doesn’t merit attention.” But, he said, “there’s lots of reasons why discrimination against LGBT people looks different than other forms of discrimination … [That] doesn’t mean it’s not discrimination that needs to be remedied.”
In the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has ruled sex stereotyping illegal; declared sodomy bans unconstitutional; struck down state measures blocking civil-rights protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; and, of course, legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But even as the inevitability of legalized gay marriage was becoming clear in the early 2010s, “the narrative really began to take hold that you could be married on Sunday and fired on Monday and lose your housing on Tuesday,”. . . .
This question has been particularly fraught for transgender people, such as the plaintiff who will go before the Supreme Court this fall.
Ironically, as LGBTQ rights have expanded, it has become harder for advocates to make their case to the public. Before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, “people could see very clearly the fact that same-sex couples couldn’t get married,” McBride said. “People have a more difficult time understanding the way civil rights work in our country, the absence of protections.” The movement has also developed powerful allies from Wall Street to Hollywood, and those alliances have been used against advocates. . . . “The irony about antidiscrimination laws is: Vulnerable groups don’t get protected until they’re actually … [able to] muster the political power to gain momentum.”
Still, that momentum has redoubled the resolve of LGBTQ activists. Maybe they won’t win at the Supreme Court this time, or get nondiscrimination legislation passed through this Congress. But, they believe, theirs is a cause of progress. They will eventually win it all.
And that has left a number of their opponents very, very nervous.
When the Equality Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives this spring, there were no amendments on the floor—it was just an up or down vote. . . . The legislation won the vote of every Democrat in the House who participated in the roll call, along with eight Republicans—a clear sign of its broad support. The bill also sent another message: The days of compromise are over.
In recent years, claims of LGBTQ rights have been repeatedly brought into direct conflict with claims of religious conscience. Just this week, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would allow federal contractors to make hiring and firing decisions based on their religious beliefs and practices; progressive advocates believe the rule will be used to target LGBTQ people.
The Equality Act specifically bars any group from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, to try to opt out of the bill’s protections.
For religious groups and institutions that teach that homosexuality is a sin, and that men and women were created as such by God, the prospect of this kind of legislation is worrying. “It would be years of litigation . . . Hoogstra has been part of a coalition pushing an alternative to the Equality Act called Fairness for All. Her organization, along with groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventists, believes federal LGBTQ discrimination protections are inevitable—the Equality Act’s passage “was a proof point,” Hoogstra said. They want the final law, whenever it passes, to reflect their needs. . . much like exceptions that were written into parts of the original Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
When the evangelical World Magazine broke the news that the CCCU and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which claims to represent roughly 45,000 churches, had voted to support the Fairness for All effort, a prominent group of conservative religious leaders signed a letter of condemnation. . . . The signers included Franklin Graham, the evangelist Billy Graham’s son, who has been known to make inflammatory comments about homosexuality; but also Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, who is often seen as a moderating voice in the evangelical world.
If the Democrats make a full electoral sweep in 2020, holding on to the House, taking back the Senate, and winning the White House, it seems likely that the Equality Act will be on their agenda—and it’s unlikely the party’s leadership will be open to finding a middle ground. Meanwhile, the groups totally opposed to this kind of legislation are preparing for legal war.
The story of the LGBTQ movement has lately been one of triumph, but it’s not clear whether that will continue. Graham, of Georgia Equality, told me he believes some kind of federal legislation will eventually protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, “but I’m not optimistic that it will happen quickly,” he added. In this political environment, the possibility of moderation and dialogue seems almost antiquated. “It really feels,” he said, “like everything is a battle for the soul of the nation.”
My take away? If one is LGBT or has family members or friends who are LGBT allies, the course of action is simple: vote a straight Democrat ticket in Virginia in 2019 and in the 2020 federal elections. Religious based bigotry and ignorance has harmed lives for centuries. It's time to make it illegal.