The Last 30 Days Haven’t Been Kind to LGBTQ Rights

This month, we celebrate LGBTQ Pride and acknowledge the progress we’ve made.  But there are still several reminders of the countless obstacles our community faces.  Case in point, last week’s Supreme Court decision about the Colorado baker case was a harsh reminder that equality is an ongoing uphill battle.


The case affirmed that baker Jack Phillips could legally refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, on the grounds of his religious freedom.  Much of this week’s coverage has searched for the silver lining. During a TODAY show interview, Phillips reassured America that he does not discriminate against gay people; he just has a right to refuse any messaging that goes against his Christian beliefs.  Justice Anthony Kennedy clarified that this ruling was specific to this case and was not an invitation to openly discriminate against our community. Reporters have analyzed every line of the decision, making clear that the High Court hasn’t settled the broader issue of religious freedom and the open market.  


But still, we can’t help but be concerned.  As much as everyone attempts to convince us that everything is okay, this feels like a loss.  And unfortunately, it’s just one of a few issues that should register on our equality radar.


In early May, controversy arose when two Democratic representatives called national attention to the omission of LGBTQ resources from the Small Business Administration’s website.  Nydia M. Velázquez and Yvette D. Clarke sent an impassioned letter to SBA administrator Linda McMahon, noting the resource page had been missing since January 25, 2017, just five days after President Trump’s inauguration.    


NBC News reported that the resource page was restored on May 17.  However, the incident shows how easily we can be removed from public consciousness, without anyone noticing.  The page was missing for well over a year before anyone did anything about it, before it was ever reported to the public.  Had these two representatives not taken action, LGBTQ small business owners would be left to their own devices. And if they hadn’t spoken up, perhaps our presence would be erased from other websites or organizations without protest.


Though it’s important to note that some of the attacks on our community have happened in plain view.  On May 14, the Trump administration announced that protections for transgender prisoners were being rescinded.  Without these protections, trans prisoners will likely be housed according to their biological sex and not their gender identity.  This could put trans men and women at risk, exposing them to violence and harassment at the hands of other prisoners.


This is just the latest in a series of rollbacks for trans protections, following a rescinding of trans student protections in February 2017 and the cancellation of LGBTQ federal employee protections in February of this year.


These latest developments have happened in just the last 30 days, all of which were reported but barely registered thanks to a never-ending cycle of controversy (i.e. the Eagles’ cancelled invitation to the White House, the hunt for Melania, and the latest breaking news in the Russia investigation, to name a few).


All this to say, keep your eyes open.  Just because a new development isn’t leading the morning news doesn’t mean important things aren’t happening.  For the last year and a half, the assault on the LGBTQ community hasn’t been forthright or obvious; it has been enacted in small decisions, in rollbacks that tend to happen when a more universal story steals the spotlight.  It’s so easy to miss what’s happening. But similarly, it’ll be just as easy to lose more of our rights. A sum of little attacks can equal something bigger. It’s crucial that we keep paying attention.

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