October is LGBTQ history month! Ironically, the U.S. Supreme Court heard some cases affecting the LGBTQ community’s protections at the beginning of this month. With a conservative majority on the court, the future of protections for the LGBTQ community is unclear, which could really make all of the gains we’ve made disappear into history.
The Supreme Court’s decisions in these cases will determine whether existing federal law protects gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans from discrimination on the job. The Trump administration has argued that discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community is acceptable because protections from Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 don’t apply to us. This means that myself and people that I care about could lose our jobs just because of our gender identity and who we choose to love. The cases are Altitude Express Inc v Zarda, Bostock v Clay County, and RG GR Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC.
The Supreme Court is likely to issue opinions by June which will decide whether it’s legal to fire someone in the United States because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Why Virginia Isn’t a Safe Place for the LGBTQ Community
With LGBTQ rights under attack nationally, Virginia has to do more to protect the LGBTQ community here in the Commonwealth. In recent years, progressive legislators introduced a number of bills to protect LGBTQ community members from discrimination at work and in housing. But they were all defeated by conservatives in the General Assembly.
There have been several failed attempts to make discrimination in housing and public employment illegal in the commonwealth. Virginia has very few protections for employees on the job, so, it’s very easy to fire people without cause. Adhering to anti-discrimination laws will give folks within the LGBTQ+ community a leg to stand on in the event that a firing or housing denial is hate-based and unfounded.
Even though we’ve seen bipartisan support in the state Senate for banning LGBTQ discrimination in housing and employment, those bills have been blocked Both the housing and employment discrimination bills made it through the state Senate, but were blocked in the House of Delegates each time by either House Speaker Kirk Cox and House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert.
Last legislative session, even a bill that would have barred conversion therapy for minors failed. Conversion therapy is a practice lacking a basis in verified science that aims to change a person’s sexuality. It doesn’t make much sense that conversion therapy is legal, especially with the American Psychiatric Association pushing against it. It has been proven to be harmful, leading to lasting psychological effects and in some cases, suicide. Conversion therapy has not been proven to be effective, but anti-family groups like The Family Foundation defeated the bill by lobbying conservative politicians to vote against it.
Without these protections in place, including one that would have codified Gov. Northam’s executive order against discrimination into Virginia law, folks throughout the LGBTQ+ community will continue to suffer.
Living in Virginia as a Queer person who is in a partnership with someone who is non-binary, this stigma isn’t something that I take lightly. I can get used to the staring when we hold hands in public, but I shouldn’t have to worry about whether our jobs or apartment lease are at risk because conservatives in the legislature are okay with discrimination.
Vote for Progressive Candidates Who Care About the LGBTQ Community
This year’s anti-discrimination bills and others similar to it are sure to be heard again during the upcoming General Assembly session. In order for them to pass through both the Senate and the House this time, we need to have a progressive majority.
Luckily, there are a slew of candidates who are willing to advocate for LGBTQ+ protections.
Not sure where the folks on your ballot fall? Check out our progressive voters guide!
Terms in this post:
Gender identity: the gender that you identify with, internally. It does not always align with the sex you were assigned at birth.
Gender expression: the way you choose to outwardly show your gender identity.
Sex assigned at birth: your biological sex.
Transgender: when your assigned sex at birth does not align with your gender identity.
Cisgender: when your assigned sex at birth aligns with your gender identity.
Non-binary: we operate within a binary, meaning that people usually identify with two choices: male or female. Those who don’t identify as distinctly either one fall into the category of non-binary.