SCOTUS Ruling Is One Step In LGBT+ Fight Against GOP Oppression

While the Supreme Court’s decision to protect LGBT+ rights in the workplace is historic, President Trump and the GOP's assault on the community continues.
Americans celebrate after the Supreme Court of the United States ended marriage discrimination on June 26, 2015 (tedeytan/ creative commons)

Americans celebrate after the Supreme Court of the United States ended marriage discrimination on June 26, 2015 (tedeytan/ creative commons)

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This week’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling, in the middle of Pride Month, is a landmark decision that will ensure Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT+ employees from being discriminated against in the workplace. 4.5% of people in the US identify as LGBT+. Millions of those live in states where, until this ruling, there were no laws in place to protect workers from discrimination due to their sexuality or gender identity.

While this is a step in the right direction that will now ensure millions cannot be fired simply because of the way they were born, this is not time to pause or rest. At all levels of government in the US, LGBT+ individuals find themselves having to battle, not just to secure equal rights, but also to prevent the rights that have already been secured from being rolled back.

During Donald Trump’s presidency his administration has sought to slow progress, undermine rights and outright strip away protections from LGBT+ individuals. The appointment of Richard Grenell as the first openly gay member of a president’s cabinet, or nominating a small number of LGBT+ people to government positions, does not negate the policies that have been pushed by the Trump administration. This is a case where words aren’t just empty. They are false.

Trump has made promises to the LGBT+ community and claimed he’ll defend them, whilst doing everything in his power to make their lives harder. From symbolic gestures, such as banning embassies from flying LGBT+ flags during Pride Month, to making offensive jokes such as Donald Trump’s remark that Mike Pence “wants to hang” LGBT+ people, to blocking the passage of the Equality Act in Congress, to rolling back protections in education, healthcare, housing, the workplace and the US military, the list of anti-LGBT+ actions by this White House is very long indeed.

If evidence is needed of how the Trump administration is intent on stripping away LGBT+ rights in a cruel manner, look at the recent decision by the White House to remove protections that prohibited transgender individuals from being discriminated against in healthcare. Not only did this decision serve no purpose other than to leave transgender people facing further persecution, on top of the discrimination they already face in many aspects of their life, it was insensitively announced on the 4th anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub, a gay venue in Florida.

On a day when LGBT+ people were grieving the loss of 49 members of their community, the Trump administration sought to exact a punishment on an already marginalized group. While the move was not surprising, given how often, under Donald Trump, the White House has removed protections and paved the way for transphobia, this was, at best, a careless move showing the total disregard Donald Trump has for the LGBT+ community or, at worst, a deliberately callous move to kick a community on a painful day of mourning.

While we can all celebrate this week’s victory in the Supreme Court, we have to remember that, as with all marginalized groups, the road to equality for LGBT+ people is a long one that is paved with challenges. Not being discriminated against in the workplace is a right that LGBT+ individuals shouldn’t have had to even fight for in the first place, and it’s a reminder that there are still so many basic rights that LGBT+ individuals do not have across the United States.

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There is no federal law that protects LGBT+ people from being discriminating against in health insurance, in schools and colleges, and in hospitals. There is no federal law that prevents LGBT+ customers from being discriminated against by businesses. There is no federal law that bans conversion therapy. Transgender individuals are not allowed to serve openly in the US military. It’s called the LGBT+ community for a reason. The whole community has to be united and support one another. Whatever group is under assault, whatever group is being denied basic rights, everyone must stand together and fight for fair rights.

Even where LGBT+ individuals have had legislative or legal victories, there is another challenge that needs to be overcome. Years of open discrimination against the LGBT+ community has created a whole host of cultural issues that have polluted society and poisoned minds. Simply eliminating the legal ability to discriminate does not remove the conscious and subconscious bias that those in positions of power, whether in business or politics, have built up.

If the fight is confined to only the legal and political battles, the risk is that not being discriminated against will continue to be a human right that is denied to LGBT+ individuals. It will be perceived as a policy that those in office have the right to remove as and when they choose. Any progress that is made in LGBT+ equality is not going to be seen as something that is etched in stone until these societal issues are addressed, until it is the common view that LGBT+ rights are permanent and cannot be undone.

Donald Trump ran for office claiming that he would be an advocate for LGBT+ individuals, but on that, as with so many other things during this administration, the reality has proved to be very different from the rhetoric. Trump’s administration has been the most aggressively anti-LGBT administration in decades. Too many LGBT+ people face discrimination, or even violence, because of their sexuality or gender identity but, instead of defending them, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have spent their time in the White House rolling back protections for them.

While Donald Trump is in office and there are Republicans in power at all levels of government who push discriminatory policies, the campaign for LGBT+ equality will not be over. In fact, even as one victory is secured at the Supreme Court, another battle begins, with the justices set to hear a case in their next term over whether organizations can bar same-sex couples from being foster parents.

Pride Month is a time for the LGBT+ community to celebrate the progress that has already been made. No one should be deterred from doing that. Let’s take a moment to recognize the people who’ve secured those steps forward. But, also, it should not be forgotten how far there still is to go. To alter one of Hillary Clinton’s phrases, the fight must continue until the world sees that human rights are LGBT+ rights and LGBT+ rights are human rights.

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Opinion // Donald Trump / Human Rights / LGBT / Republican Party / Supreme Court