Now that the LGBT community has equal marriage rights, whatâ€™s next?
On June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are now legally able to marry in all 50 states. With that ruling, people in the LGBT community gained hundreds of rights previously only afforded to heterosexual couples, but despite so many rights gained with one ruling, equality is still elusive. Where should the community focus their efforts next? We offer a few ideas below.
Employment â€“ Believe it or not, it is still legal to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual in over half the country. There are 29 states that donâ€™t have employment protection laws based on sexual orientation, and itâ€™s legal to fire someone based on gender identity in 30 states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT people still face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job.
The Employment Non-Discrimination ActÂ (ENDA) would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination; however, in 2014, after the Hobby Lobby ruling, major LGBT rights organizations withdrew their support of ENDA as it stood due to vague religious exemptions. The fear was that the exemptions could make things worse for the LGBT community. ENDA now remains in limbo with no clear path forward. Itâ€™s time to pass an inclusive ENDA without giving people the right to discriminate while hiding behind religious exemptions. All people should have the right to work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Blood Ban â€“ Even though all donated blood is fully tested, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 is banned for life from giving blood. All blood is vigorously tested, and the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and Americaâ€™s Blood Centers have publicly spoken out against the gay blood ban. Earlier this year, the FDA announced they would be removing the lifetime ban, and would be replacing it with one that would ban any male from donating blood if they had had sex with another man within the past year. David Stacy,Â HRC Government Affairs Director, says the policy, â€œprevents men from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply. It simply cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology.â€ According to the Huffington Post, the new recommendations are still open to public comment, and the FDA will issue final rules soon. To learn more about how you can do more to end the gay blood ban, visit www.gayblooddrive.com.
Conversion Therapy â€“ There are still places that try to change peopleâ€™s sexual orientation and gender identity by using inhumane techniques such as electroshock therapy, induced nausea, paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images, and much more. A documentary titled “Kidnapped for Christ“Â exposes some of the harsh treatments undergone through conversion therapy. In May of this year, Oregon became the third state to ban conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, to minors. California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. also have bans. Organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all come out against conversion therapy. In response to a petition that gathered more than 120,000 signatures, the White House made a public statement in support of banning all conversion practices directed towards minors.Â
â€œThe overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,â€ the statement said. â€œAs part of our dedication to protecting Americaâ€™s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.â€
Banning conversion therapy to minors is a great start, but itâ€™s not enough. Last May, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced federal legislation that would ban the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy throughout the country, and would classify the practice as fraud under the Federal Trade Commission Act. We need to make it a priority to pass this legislation in order to protect the mental health of our community and save lives.Â
Transgender Individuals Serving in the Military â€“ Even though the ban on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the military was struck down, people in the transgender community are still prohibited from serving. According to the HRC, there are approximately 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, and unlike â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell,â€ the ban on transgender military service is regulatory and only requires action by the Department of Defense to update. At least 18 countries, including Australia, Canada, and Israel allow, military service by transgender personnel.Â
Anti bullying â€“ Bullying is a major issue for LGBT youth. GLSEN reported the following statistics in their 2013 National School Climate Survey by GLSEN:
- 74.1% of LGBT students were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55.2% because of their gender expression.
- 36.2% were physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 22.7% because of their gender expression.
- 71.4% of LGBT students heard â€œgayâ€ used in a negative way (e.g., â€œthatâ€™s so gayâ€) frequently or often at school, and 90.8% reported that they felt distressed because of this language.
- 64.5% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., â€œdykeâ€ or â€œfaggotâ€) frequently or often.
- 55.5% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression.
- 30.3% of LGBT students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and over a tenth (10.6%) missed four or more days in the past month.
We need better protections for LGBT youth in schools, similar to what New York did with the Dignity for All Students Act.Â
LGBT Youth Homelessness â€“ Each year, between 500,000 and 1.6 million youth in the US are homeless or runaways and LGBT youth make up 20-40% of those numbers. This is a huge percentage! Unfortunately, some people are even turned away from shelters because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There are things we can do, though. Check out the Forty to None Project for more information.Â
There are, of course, many other concerns that need to be addressed as well, but these are a few key ones. Which ones do you think we should focus on? Is there an issue we missed that you think deserves more attention and focus? Let us know in the comments section below.Â
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MN Police Officer Sentenced 3.5 Years for Death of George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Keung has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of Black city resident George Floyd.
Keung, age 29, had accepted a plea deal in order to avoid an additional charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His guilty plea acknowledged that the restraining holds used by police on Floyd were excessive and likely to cause serious harm.
Video of Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder at the hands of city police captured footage of Keung kneeling on Floyd’s back while another officer knelt of the man’s neck. for over nine minutes, officers applied pressure to Floyd while he laid face down in the street, crying and telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while also calling out for his mother.
Video of Floyd’s murder sparked international outrage and inspired protests against institutional racism and police brutality.
Keung is the fourth and final police officer to receive prison time for his role in Floyd’s death. He will serve his new sentence and a federal sentence for Floyd’s death concurrently, serving a total of about 2 1/2 years for the killing.
Virginia Republican Files Bill Defining a Fertilized Egg as a Human
Virginia State Delegate Marie March (R) has pre-filed House Bill 1395, a law that would define life as beginning at fertilization.
“Life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States,” the proposed bill states.
The proposed bill would effectively outlaw all abortions in the state and even endanger the use of Plan B (aka. “The morning-after pill”), a medication that prevents fertilized egg cells from attaching to a woman’s uterine wall.
The bill could also effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization, a method of inducing pregnancy that uses fertilized eggs and discards any unused ones.
Even though Republicans control the state’s House of Delegates, it’s unclear if the bill would have any chance of passing the state’s Democratic-led Senate. The legislature won’t reconvene until January 11, 2023.
Virginia currently allows a woman to get an abortion within roughly 26 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed passing a law that would reduce that window to 15 weeks, a period of time in which most women may not even realize they’re pregnant.
In response to March’s bill the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance said in a statement, “In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and despite the vast majority of Virginians who oppose it, Virginia’s anti-abortion elected officials keep proving there are no limits to their extremism and true intentions to ban abortion for all Virginians.”
Georgia GOP Says Its Voting Restrictions “Backfired” & Helped Dems Win Senate Seat
When two Republicans lost Georgia’s special runoff senate elections in January 2021, state Republicans in the General Assembly re-wrote voting laws to restrict absentee ballots and give voters fewer days to vote in future runoff elections.
However, after Republicans lost yet another runoff election for Georgia’s Senate seat — with Herschel Walker losing to his Democratic competitor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, earlier this month — state Republicans want to re-re-write the rules, hopeful of a more favorable outcome.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the official who oversees the state’s voting procedures, said he plans on giving three proposals to lawmakers when they return to the General Assembly in January.
“[The proposals] include forcing large counties to open more early-voting locations (in an attempt to reduce the hours-long lines some voters waited in) … lowering the threshold candidates must achieve to avoid a runoff from 50 percent to 45 percent; and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to come back to the polls again after the general election,” The New York Times reported.
To be clear, it’s unclear whether these changes would’ve helped Walker win. But they stand in contrast to the changes state Republicans made to voting laws following their failed January 2021 Senate runoff ambitions.
The changes after that time severely restricted the types of people eligible to receive an absentee ballot. While 24 percent of the January 2021 vote came via mail-in absentee ballots, the rule changes resulted in 5 percent of mail-in votes coming in for the January 2022 runoff.
Republicans also lowered the number of in-person early voting days to five (though the rule change allowed counties to add extra days.) The Times found that 28 of Georgia’s 159 counties opted to add extra in-person early voting days — 17 of the counties that did largely backed Warnock while 11 backed his challenger.
Before the recent run-off election, Raffensperger also tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect.
Overall, the changes may have “backfired,” Republicans told The Times, actually encouraging Democratic voters to come out in greater numbers.
While Republicans point to the large turnout of runoff voters as “proof” that their changes didn’t discourage voting, Warnock’s campaign criticized the changes, saying that such restrictions shouldn’t make it harder for people to vote in the first place.
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