The nefarious forces we still face
Over the last few years together, we have made enormous strides — from increasing trans visibility to historic actions by the Obama administration to lifting the ban on trans military service — in our effort to advance transgender equality.
Despite that progress, there are still too many politicians across this country who are using the lives and rights of transgender people for their own political gain. While they will ultimately go down on the wrong side of history, they are again fighting to stop our progress through the courts.
In a decision handed down on Monday, a federal judge in Texas with a history of handing down anti-LGBTQ decisions blocked the Department of Justice from enforcing the guidance it issued earlier this year outlining how schools should respectfully treat transgender students. Fortunately, many school systems are taking the ruling for what it is — one lower-court decision in what is destined to be a larger conversation about Title IX — and through our Welcoming Schools program, HRC is working with thousands of schools across the nation to create a positive environment and policies for all students. Still, for countless transgender kids going back to school, this week’s ruling has put them at even greater risk of marginalization, harassment and discrimination.
In another attack this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led four other states in another anti-LGBTQ lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. Paxton appears determined to stake a claim on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and intolerance, and is now trying to block parts of the Affordable Care Act ensuring healthcare for transgender people, among others.
These suits come on the heels of a ruling last week, in which a federal judge in Michigan sided in favor of a Detroit-based funeral home who fired an employee simply because she is transgender. The court found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) could be used as a defense in a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This reckless ruling has the potential of opening a Pandora’s box of discrimination against a wide range of vulnerable communities.
These legal assaults on the rights of transgender Americans are a vivid reminder of the nefarious forces we still face — and why it is so crucial for us to win passage of the federal Equality Act. Getting to full federal equality for LGBTQ people will not only require a bipartisan majority in Congress, but a champion in the Oval Office who will sign it into law. So when Hillary Clinton calls the Equality Act her highest legislative priority, that is our call to action.
If our march toward full LGBTQ equality is to continue, we can’t risk the election of Donald Trump, who has endorsed HB2 and cozied up to hateful groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.
If we bear down with all our might, this is a fight we can — and will — win. A national survey released yesterday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Americans oppose laws like North Carolina’s HB2 and only 35 percent support them. Momentum is on our side.
We must continue to be tireless in our pursuit of justice — and to keep sharing our stories with our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. What our history has taught us is that, in doing so, we not only have the power to change hearts and minds, but the course of history.
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