By Michael Nam
While great progress has been made for LGBT rights in a seemingly short period of time, challenges remain in protecting those rights from gay-bashing legislators. With public sentiment shifting rapidly on the issue of marriage equality, anti-LGBT crusaders have updated tactics, including pursuing “religious freedom” bills and aiming at more vulnerable targets, such as transgender people.
Even as the Supreme Court decides the fate of same-gender marriage throughout the nation in Obergefell v. Hodges this year, other developments show a big change toward supporting LGBT rights outside of just marriage issues.
May is National Foster Care Month, and Pres. Barack Obama made history on the LGBT rights front once again with his proclamation regarding fostering and adopting children: “All young people, regardless of what they look like, which religion they follow, who they love, or the gender they identify with, deserve the chance to dream and grow in a loving, permanent home,” he declared, referencing the 400,000 young people currently in the foster care system.
“With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure all qualified caregivers have the opportunity to serve as foster or adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status,” the White House proclamation added, a call to end discrimination for children and prospective parents in the adoption and foster care system.
In Florida, two separate bills tackled the issue of adoption, as The News-Press reports. While discrimination against same-sex parents was already struck down by a court ruling in 2010, a bill that includes a provision to ensure equality passed the Florida House and Senate and is waiting for Republican Governor Rick Scott’s decision on whether or not the 1977 ban is repealed.
However, in response to that bill, conservatives in Florida attempted to pass a separate one that would allow private and religious institutions to discriminate against LGBT couples attempting to become foster or adoptive parents. The bill reached the Florida senate, but it appears it will not be seeing any further progress in the state’s legislature.
As each pro-LGBT provision begins to achieve public acceptance and win in legislation and the courts, bigoted opponents step up their attempts to fight back. These efforts are exemplified by the flood of “religious freedom” acts spotlighted after Indiana’s disastrous attempt to sneak in protections for discriminatory businesses and organizations.
Surprisingly, South Carolina moved forward with an anti-discrimination bill, bypassing the state’s House committee However, even without specific provisions defending those who wish to discriminate against LGBT patrons, many states still have no laws on the books protecting people based on their sexuality or gender identity, bills such as thosevoted againstby an outed Republican North Dakota legislator.
As the Advocate reports, the pressure is on from the right wing to make headway on other fronts in denying civil rights to LGBT individuals. The issue of restroom and locker room use for transgender individuals has become a rallying point:
Even the most ardent antigay conservatives likely recognize that apocalyptic talk about the end of society being brought about by two men or two women being able to marry will soon have to be retired. A new monster is required for their scary stories. And the right wing is already field-testing the suggestion that Americans should fear that their public and school bathrooms may be a hiding place for the transgender boogeyman, or worse, the trans boogeywoman.
Though the visibility of transgender people has never been greater whether it’s the historic women’s school, Smith College, accepting transgender women as students for the first time; celebrities such as Bruce Jenner coming out; or a high profile advertising campaign using a transgender teen as a spokesperson transphobes continue to shamelessly exploit paranoia of violation and assault, especially in intimate spaces such as restrooms.
Currently, bills in Minnesota, Missouri and Texas are making their way through the legislatures, while an initiative is gathering signatures in California. Horrifically, the attempts in Texas and California include cash incentives for turning transgender “violators” of those statutes into the authorities.
Many of the “bathroom bills” and “religious freedom” bills have already been defeated in legislatures or condemned by influential businesses, but ardent bigots continue to try and fight the shifting cultural landscape. Considering that over half of millennials support gay rights according to Pew Research, the only way the anti-LGBT contingent will turn back the calendar is if those who oppose them lose their vigilance.