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Recent Developments in LGBTQIA+ Rights: A Discussion of Where We Are, and How Far We Have to Go

2021 has been an incredibly challenging year for the LGBTQIA+ community so far for a multitude of reasons, ranging from the rise in violence against LGBTQIA+ persons, to a substantial increase in anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation being put forward. Fortunately, much of this legislation is being stopped in its tracks, with several federal courts opting to stop these bills from going into effect. Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration has made commitments to advancing LGBTQIA+ rights, and have made some progress in their first six months in office. With that being said, a few executive orders are not enough - providing all LGBTQIA+ persons the rights they deserve will require more radical, thoughtful, and racial justice centered reform.

This year has brought a great deal of LGBTQIA+ legislation about from both sides of the political aisle. Similar to many law-makers’ motives for attempting to suppress the vote of minorities across the country, anti-LGBTQIA+ laws are being proposed to discriminate against minorities while attempting to mobilize their electoral base. Fortunately, these efforts have largely failed thus far, with federal courts understanding that these laws violate due process, Title IX, and equal protection laws.

While these efforts are being made to harm the LGBTQIA+ community from one side, the Biden-Harris Administration is working simultaneously to undo Trump-era policies and increase protections. The Administration made their commitment to LGBTQIA+ rights known early on by signing both the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation and the Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. Additionally, they have made several strides in the right direction, including implementing the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision, removing the ban on transgender people serving in the military, issuing an executive order asking federal agencies to reassess their data collection practices, and many others (you can read a full list here).

While these efforts are certainly steps in the right direction, it is not enough. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), there are several specific areas of focus that need to be addressed within the law promptly, including, but not limited to:

  1. Passage of the Equality Act, which would provide “consistent, explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people” so that future administrations are unable to take away the progress that is made under the current administration. Passage of the Equality Act would require congressional support and action.

  2. Public safety and police reform must be addressed with LGBTQIA+ people in mind, particularly those that are transgender, non-binary, and/or persons of color. Reform must include everything from holding law enforcement accountable for discriminatory actions, to ensuring those that are incarcerated are safe and have access to necessary medical treatments.

  3. Discrimination in employment must be addressed, with particular care to disallow the systemic discrimination often found in workplaces.

  4. The child welfare system needs an overhaul, including the ban of “conversion therapy” in foster care and the implementation of non-discrimination protections for children in the foster care system, to ensure their placements and out-of-home care services are safe.

  5. Non-discrimination safeguards in the healthcare setting must be improved across the board, in addition to a commitment to ensuring medically necessary transition related healthcare is provided.

  6. Discrimination in schools must be further addressed, with special consideration for those of two or more marginalized identities (e.g. Black and Transgender).

  7. Aspects of fair housing and homelessness must be addressed, with special legislation protecting LGBTQIA+ people from housing discrimination. For those that are homeless, federally funded shelters must be inclusive, welcoming, and safe - particularly for those that are transgender or non-binary.

“At least 29 trans and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. so far in 2021, on pace to become the worst year on record. We say ‘at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported. Since 2013, HRC and other advocates have tracked more than 180 cases of anti-transgender fatal violence across more than 33 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. This hateful violence disproportionately impacts Black and Brown transgender women, who comprise approximately 4 in 5 of all anti-transgender homicides.” - Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign

In addition to all of this, racial equality needs to be better centered in the laws enacted across the board. LGBTQIA+ people of color in particular have lacked basic protections for a long time, with their fight for rights continuing today. The LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement started with Black transgender women fighting against police brutality and for liberation, and these original efforts need to be re-centered in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement today. Violent hate crimes against Black and Brown transgender women are most prevalent, comprising of approximately 4 in 5 of all anti-transgender homicides. Not only the government, but LGBTQIA+ organizations, need to work on better centering racial equality and advocacy when it comes to fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights.

Get to the point:

2021 has has brought a great deal of LGBTQIA+ legislation about from both sides of the political aisle. While aggressive efforts are being made to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation across the country, these efforts have largely failed in federal courts due to their obvious discriminatory nature. The Biden-Harris Administration has made their commitment to LGBTQIA+ rights known, and have been making steps in the right direction so far. Unfortunately, these efforts are not enough, evidenced by the fact that violence against LGBTQIA+ persons - particularly Black and Brown transgender women - continues to be on the rise. Providing all LGBTQIA+ persons the rights they deserve will require more radical, thoughtful, and racial justice centered reform, and a commitment to ensuring any progress made today cannot be rolled back by future administrations.


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