- Seena Beed
LGBTQ+ Rights are Rolling Back: It's Time to Roll Forward
Within the past 50 years, the LGTBQ+ rights movement has made tremendous strides. From the first gay pride parade in 1970, to the decriminalization of same-sex relationships in the late 1990s, to finally legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, the LGBTQ+ community has broken through to an entire era of equality.
Despite this progress, the community and their proponents must still advocate due to sustained prejudices in a number of sectors: employment, housing, the military, etc. Laws and mandates continually obstruct the LGBTQ+ community’s pursuit of total equality. More specifically, since President Donald Trump’s administration has taken office, there have been several setbacks to LGBTQ+ equality. To better understand how the United States has digressed in the past three years, one must recount the history of LGBTQ+ rights.
Seeing the need for official organization for the cause, the first documented organization for gay rights, The Society for Human Rights, was founded in 1924. Since then, there have been thousands of organizations, marches, protests, bureaucratic challenges and legal battles with the goal of pushing for equality regardless of gender and sexuality.
The progress from the 1960s was exponential, with each decade producing a landmark decision:
In the 1960s, the first state removed the ban on sodomy to effective decriminalize homosexual relationships. In the 1980s, the first state outlawed discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. In the 1990s, LGBTQ+ couples were allowed to register as domestic partners, granting them some of the benefits of marriage. And finally in the 2000s, the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry extends out to same-sex couples.
With each decade, landmark decisions won massive achievements for the LGBTQ+ community. But there were several setbacks during this period as well.
In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower established an executive order that banned LGBTQ+ people from working in the federal government, which perpetuated the constant harassment of and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
Additionally, in the early 1990s, the Bill Clinton administration enforced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy which allowed LGBTQ+ people to be in the military, but only if they kept their sexual and gender orientation a secret. This administration also passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented married same-sex couples from receiving equal benefits and allowed state governments to refuse same sex-marriage certificates from other states.
The examples of setbacks put forth by the Eisenhower and Clinton administrations serve as proof that discourse on LGBTQ+ rights is not a bipartisan issue. Overall, the LGBTQ+ community has achieved marriage equality and further acceptance in society but have disparities in health care, military rights and transgender rights.
Similar to Eisenhower’s and Clinton’s policies, Trump’s administration has further deterred LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Time and time again, his actions have shown that he does not support the queer community. Despite campaign promises to “protect transgender people,” both President Trump and Vice President Pence have rolled back many LGBTQ+ protections, safety nets and equality laws.
President Trump announced he was reinstating the ban on transgender men and women serving in the military through a series of tweets in 2017. The ban went into effect in April of 2019 despite multiple lawsuits questioning its constitutionality as well as multiple pieces of legislation attempting to reject the ban.
The premise of this ban states that individuals in the military that identify as transgender would require “tremendous medical costs” that the military “cannot be burdened with.” The reasoning to revoke this right is unfounded — it is undeniably a form of discrimination against LGBTQ+ in both employment and healthcare.
In June of 2020, the Trump administration took it a step farther by denying LGBTQ+ people access to health care. President Trump has reversed protections that former President Barack Obama had put into place to prohibit discrimination in health care based on gender identity. This means that the definition of “sex” will now be based on “biological sex” rather than one’s true gender identity.
During his administration, President Trump also blocked transgender access to federally funded homeless shelters and removed anti-discrimination protocols for applicants for homelessness funding. Among many other things, President Trump made it more difficult for transgender and same-sex couples to adopt children by allowing religiously affiliated groups to discriminate against aspiring same-sex foster couples.
While religious freedom in the U.S. means that all people have the right to practice their own religion, it should not give people the right to use their religion to discriminate against others. The rights and equalities that have taken decades to advance have been backtracked in four short years. President Trump has given way to complete discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, undoing progress made by former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden, now the 2020 presidential nominee against President Trump, has not only made promises to advance LGBTQ+ equality, but began the process himself alongside President Barack Obama. Biden’s track record shows that he has grown alongside the movement into accepting and endorsing LGBTQ+ rights. For example, under the Clinton administration, Biden did vote for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), limiting marriage benefits for same-sex couples. Since then, however, his stance on LGBTQ+ rights have completely changed.
Today he stands completely in support of the community and is fighting for their equality. It was under Obama and Biden’s leadership that the DOMA and DADT were both redacted. The two were also the first executive officers to talk about and politically endorse gay marriage. Their initiative led to the complete legalization of gay marriage in the United States. Moreover, Biden was essential to passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that expanded hate crimes to include those inspired by one’s sexual orientation and perceived gender identity.
In addition to his previous endorsements and support of the queer community, Biden has made huge campaign promises to help the community work toward complete equality and to enforce laws and institutions to protect those rights. Biden will for advocate LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace, in health care, at schools, in leadership, in the criminal justice system and more.
During his first week in office, Biden plans to create a Presidential Memorandum prioritizing his efforts in the LBGTQ+ community, which includes support for transgender and non-binary people in the workforce through training programs and resources. He intends to reverse the Trump-Pence Administration’s move that allowed discrimination against transgender people in homeless shelters and allow for funding again. Biden has promised to restore access to all health care by implementing non-discrimination protections and creating comprehensive health care coverage. Biden’s plans include these things and so much more. It is clear that he stands by the LGBTQ+ community and has continuously been advocating for their equality.
Discrimination and hate against the queer community has persisted to modern times despite tremendous strides since the 1960s. There is still much to do. After decades of progress and landmark decisions, the Trump administration has stripped the LGBTQ+ community of their basic rights.
Biden’s positions show him to be an essential step to get back on track to complete LGBTQ+ equality. States still have a lot of power in dictating LGBTQ+ rights, but the federal government is the only one that can produce long lasting effects for the nation. Taking the correct steps for the LGBTQ+ community now will have a huge impact on the future of the nation and will rebrand the United States as a global protector of rights and equality.