October 8th Could be a Big Step Forward for LGBTQ+ Rights
by Texas Family Project
Most Americans think the battle for LGBTQ rights ended in 2015 with the Supreme Court decision establishing marriage equality. Unfortunately, this is far from the reality. In fact, discrimination against LGBTQ people is still legal and widespread across the country.
Today there are still 21 states, including Texas, where there are no explicit statewide laws at all protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
There is also no federal statute specifically protecting LGBTQ citizens, as it has always been done under executive order. In 1994 President Bill Clinton added sexual orientation as a protected group for the first time in an executive order addressing discrimination. The executive order passed by President Obama in 2014 added gender identity - but this was revoked by President Trump in 2017.
In 2019 the Department of Justice received complaints on behalf of a group of LGBTQ employees there, alleging that hostility and discrimination have increased. These complaints were largely ignored,causing several employees to quit.
It’s not as though we haven’t tried to pass bills to protect our vulnerable citizens. Since 1994, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced several times. It was expanded in 2007 to include gender identity. A new broader bill, the Equality Act, replaced ENDA in 2015. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives in May of 2019 and brought to the Senate for a vote. It’s still gathering dust on Mitch McConnell’s desk, as are many other bills which he refuses to consider.
There are 3 cases scheduled before the Supreme Court to be heard beginning Oct 8th, which will argue that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act expressly “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin”. These cases seek a ruling that determines that “sex” in this clause includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
The decisions in these cases will determine if Texas and the other 20 states can continue to treat LGBTQ people differently than others under the law.
Of course, this will only solve part of the problem. We have to change people’s hearts too. Over 50% of those identifying as LGBTQ say that they have experienced violence, threats, or harassment because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Older LGBTQ adults feel that most harassment comes from individual prejudice and that the laws and policies are a smaller part of the problem. Younger adults feel that it is about equal.
Our youth are especially vulnerable. Recently a survey conducted by the University of Connecticut and the Human Rights Campaign found the following:
77% of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed report feeling depressed or down over the past week
95% of LGBTQ youth report trouble sleeping at night
Over 50 % of trans and gender expansive youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity
More than 70 % report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;
Only 26 % say they always feel safe in their school classrooms -- and just 5% say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;
67% report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people
No matter how the Supreme Court rules in these cases we must continue to push for the rights of Texas Families of all kinds to have equal protection and fair treatment. Families are defined only by love and this fight will not end until our laws reflect that.
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