Despite great strides made in the past decade in the fight for equality, many important LGBT legal issues are still face the gay community.
When the United States Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2013, the LGBT community and their supporters were elated. It appeared that decades of fighting for the same rights that other American citizens take for granted had finally knocked down a dark history of inequality, violence and oppression of LGBT people in America. But if the past teaches us anything, it’s that progress is never linear, and that for every few steps forward, we do indeed take another step back.
All across the country today, battles are being waged against the LGBT community. Many of these fights are in states less progressive than states like California, New York and Massachusetts, for example, which have some of the strongest protections for LGBT people in America. But even in those states, all is not well as recent enacted and proposed policies at the federal level threaten equal protection for LGBT citizens of the United States.
The ten top LGBT legal issues facing the gay community today include:
- The U.S. Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, which now seems imminent, will reaffirm the court’s conservative bias, which is bad news for LGBT rights. Watch municipalities and states pass laws to slowly chip away at existing LGBT protections, and pass more draconian laws
- The Census. The Trump administration has removed all references to LGBT people from the US Census, which mean that it will be impossible to accurately determine the size of the LGBT population.
- Transgender rights. The Trump administration has waged a direct attack on transgender people. Courts are now fighting over trans Americans serving in the military. Bathroom bans, which are supported by conservative judges, may end up in front of the Supreme Court. This opens the doors for more discrimination, denial of service and violence.
- Violence against LGBT people. Violence against LGBT people is on the rise, especially for transgender people. Deadly violence against transgender people has significantly increased and is expected to get worse.
- The ban on HIV-positive service members. The Trump administration’s recently enacted ban on HIV-positive service members serving in the armed forces. Trump’s “Deploy or Get Out” policy, which goes into effect October 1, 2018, states that service members who “for any reason” cannot be deployed for more than 12 consecutive months will be discharged. The policy affects all HIV-positive military members because of a 1980s policy that barred HIV-positive soldiers from deploying overseas.
- Workplace discrimination. More than seventy countries provide workplace protections for LGBT workers, but in the United States there is still no federal law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no state-level protection for sexual orientation in 28 of the 50 US states, and no gender-identity protection in 30 states.
- Housing discrimination. There is also no federal protection for housing discrimination. Only 22 states have laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and just 20 of the 22 prohibit housing discrimination based on gender identity.
- LGBT adoption. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption was unconstitutional, which opened the door for LGBT adoption in all 50 states. However, the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment in July 2018 that would allow adoption agencies to refuse gay couples based on their moral or religious beliefs. Anti-LGBT bills being considered in other states including Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma could further hinder adoptions and gay and lesbian couples.
- Healthcare access. The removal of the individual mandate requirement of the Affordable Care Act will likely drive up premium prices, meaning that many poor people will lose access to healthcare, including many people with HIV/AIDS.
- Religious freedom laws. Some states are already enacting “Religious freedom laws” that will allow churches and businesses to refuse service to gay people. We’ve all heard about Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and the Colorado wedding cake fiasco. We can expect more of the same as religious freedom laws work their way through conservative courts.
Although it’s easy to get discouraged when faced with continued opposition to full equality for LGBT Americans, it helps to take a long range view. The struggle for LGBT rights can best be seen as a fight that will be ongoing and take commitment and persistence from LGBT people and supporters on the gay community.