Though it has taken many years and hard battles, the world has made tremendous strides in LGBTQ+ civil rights over the past decade. However, discrimination and inequality are still rampant in many countries, including the United States.
It’s crucial to acknowledge the significant advancements in civil rights for LGBTQ+ individuals, but it’s also critical to discuss the ongoing discrimination and challenges that still exist in our society. This continuous discussion gives us the perspective we need to make changes. Let’s take an in-depth look at LGBTQ+ civil rights, its advances and ongoing challenges, to spark conversations geared towards change.
In the past, LGBTQ+ individuals couldn’t legally marry their partners in the US. However, on June 26th, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right for all couples.
It allowed same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights and privileges as their heterosexual counterparts, including the ability to file taxes jointly, receive medical insurance coverage from their spouse’s employer, and have hospital visitation rights. It also symbolized a shift toward more inclusive and accepting attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, many LGBTQ+ couples still face challenges when it comes to adoption. Some states don’t legally prohibit adoption discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
This lack of legal protection leaves LGBTQ+ couples vulnerable to stigma and bias. For example, you must speak with a social worker if you want to adopt a child, and you’re subject to their biases if you live in a state with formal LGBTQ+ adoption discrimination laws. Social workers may have personal beliefs that prevent them from recommending an LGBTQ+ couple as potential adoptive parents, ultimately hindering the couple’s ability to start a family.
The repeal of the transgender military ban is another relatively recent law the US Supreme Court passed in support of LGBTQ+ civil rights. In 2019, the Trump administration implemented a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
However, the public and trans activists hotly contested this policy, arguing that it was discriminatory and unconstitutional. In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order reversing the ban, allowing transgender individuals to serve openly in the military once again. As a result of this lift, all citizens can serve their country regardless of their gender identity.
While strides have been made in terms of legal rights for trans individuals, violence against this community remains a severe issue. In 2022, at least 41 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in the United States.
And it is not a coincidence that many of these individuals were people of color. The intersection of violence is real, and trans people, especially trans people of color and trans youths, are extremely vulnerable. What’s worse is that many of these murders go misreported. General violence is categorized as hate crimes when these heinous actions are clear, thought out, and purposefully directed by the perpetrator.
Bathrooms have always been a battleground for LGBTQ+ rights, as ending up in the “wrong spaces” can be a life-or-death scenario for an LGBTQ+ person. For example, a trans woman can be subject to harassment and violence at the hands of cisgender men if she enters the male bathroom—this is not just conjecture. These crimes are happening today.
However, the world is slowly becoming safer with the popularization of gender-neutral restrooms.
Despite the increasing number of gender-neutral bathrooms in public and private spaces, no federal laws protect their existence. This lack of protection has led to a patchwork of policies across different states and institutions, leaving many LGBTQ+ individuals vulnerable to discrimination and harassment.
Many states ban transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice in schools, and some government spaces, but one state stands out among the rest: Florida. Florida has completely disallowed trans individuals to use the bathroom of their choice in all schools, universities, and any government-owned building or space. And that does not scratch the surface of Florida’s rampant anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Conversion therapy, also known as “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy, is a harmful and ineffective practice that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This pseudoscientific practice has been condemned by most major medical and mental health organizations.
As of now, 20 states and the District of Columbia have banned conversion therapy for minors, with more states currently considering similar legislation. This ban is a significant advancement towards protecting LGBTQ+ youth from this dangerous and abusive practice.
While conversion therapy bans are a step in the right direction, LGBTQ+ youth still lack comprehensive legal protections. For example, there is currently no federal law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ+ students in schools, leaving them vulnerable to bullying and harassment.
Without proper legal protections, LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for mental health issues and suicide. So, what laws and protections do we have in place for these youths to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place? Our federal and local governments must enact laws to protect children before the damage is done.
In 2020, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, declaring that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As a result, it is discriminatory for an employer or employee to consistently and actively misgender a trans coworker. While purposefully misgendering a person is cruel on a moral level, this law makes the action punishable in certain spaces. It is vital to continuously show bigots that people will not tolerate their behavior.
Regardless of our strides, much work has yet to be done. While the world and its views are rapidly changing and it’s slowly becoming safer for people to be themselves, LGBTQ+ rights are still being argued globally. We must strive to get to a place where human rights cease to be an argument. With drag bans, book bans, and legal opposition to gender-affirming care—now, more than ever, we must fight to protect our siblings in the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ civil rights, despite its advances and amid ongoing challenges, require our attention and support if we’re to create an equitable society.
Our team at the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder dedicates itself to protecting LGBTQ+ rights and fighting for the laws that have yet to pass. Let our civil rights attorneys help if you believe you’ve been discriminated against due to your sexual orientation or gender identity. We are an indomitable force when it comes to safeguarding and fighting for human rights. Trust us to do everything we can to deliver swift justice.