The nation erupted in celebrations this weekend after the Supreme Court’s announcement that same gender marriage is now legal in all 50 states, prompting the trending topic #LoveWins to explode all over social media.
But despite this monumental victory for the LGBT community and allies alike, a lot of work remains to be done.
All LGBT people still face a plethora of inequalities across the country. Perhaps one of those most damaging is employment discrimination. Only 19 states (including the District of Columbia) have laws that protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In three states, including New York, it is illegal for workers to discriminate based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
The remaining states have no protections meaning members of the LGBT community can be harassed, fired or denied a job, simply for disclosing their LGBT identity, and it is perfectly legal.
Most states also still allow conversion therapy. This controversial practice is intended to “reverse” someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity; however, it has been found that there is no scientific basis that this supposed therapy actually works. And according to the Pan American Health Organization, this could actually be doing a substantial amount of harm:
Services that purport to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a position statement launched on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia. The statement calls on governments, academic institutions, professional associations and the media to expose these practices and to promote respect for diversity.
Currently, only three states (and the District of Columbia) have placed bans on this practice California, Oregon and New Jersey.
Meanwhile, minorities within the LGBT community face even more added challenges. For instance, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP), unemployment rates are higher for LGBT people who also identify as people of color: it’s at 8 percent for the general population, 11 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander LGBT adults, 14 percent for Latino LGBT adults, and 15 percent for Black LGBT adults. Perhaps linked to this, the study also shows that LGBT couples of color are more likely to be in poverty than same-sex couples of color or white LGBT couples.
Women in the LGBT community face similar difficulties, according to Beth Shipp, executive director of LPAC (a Lesbian Political Action Committee):
“We seem to be at an incredible point in our LGBT history, on the precipice of full equality; and yet, these discriminations [like RFRAs] threaten lesbian and queer women’s economic security, our political equality and our personal freedoms. All the while, the reproductive rights of women continue to erode,” Shipp told the Daily Beast.
Since women already face a possibility of being harassed or discriminated against at work, this chance only becomes greater if she identifies as LGBT. This puts LGBT women at the forefront not only for LGBT rights but for women’s rights within that community as well.
As President Barack Obama said on Friday following the Supreme Court’s announcement, “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” While marriage equality is certainly a thunderbolt of justice, it is still just one increment in the ongoing battle for LGBT rights.