At this point, it’s easy to feel comfortable about the LGBT movement. Marriage equality is most likely going to become the reality in the United States, despite efforts by individuals like some Iowan Republicans who want to ban it, even though it’s been legal since 2009. So why are you reading this article? Because whether or not you realize it, the rights of LGBT Americans are still on terribly shaky ground.
If you’re friends with me on Facebook, chances are you saw a string of posts I made on Valentine’s Day that highlighted some of the realities that LGBT Americans face. One example is anti-discrimination. Right now, only 21 states prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, and only 18 protect based on gender identity. Iowa protects both, as do Illinois and Minnesota, but Wisconsin only protects sexual orientation. Literally, more than half the states in the U.S. can fire you for being LGBT. In the last Congress, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would’ve protected LGBT Americans in the workplace. Of course, it died in the House.
Hold on, it gets worse. A Washington Post article that ran last week describes how states are passing legislation that would prevent anti-discrimination ordinances from being passed in cities or counties. We saw this recently when Arkansas’ state legislature passed such a law, and their governor didn’t do anything about it, meaning it effectively became law. Now, cities and counties in Arkansas are unable to enact anti-discrimination laws because the state allows gay discrimination to take place. Tennessee has a similar law in place as well, and West Virginia legislators also introduced a similar law.
Of course, let’s not forget the use of religion with some of these bills and laws. The states legislatures that have considered or have passed bills or laws that revolve around some religious aspect include those in Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and North Carolina. There’s also the backlash against “trans” people that culminates in such efforts like the Kentucky Senate committee that passed legislation that would require trans students to use bathrooms of the sex they were born with (a “trans” woman being forced to use the men’s room, etc).
If you thought that anti-LGBT feelings existed only in a smattering of state legislatures and closed-minded conservatives, then this should be a wake-up call. Jonathon Capehart, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, shared some statistics from a survey by GLAAD conducted on its behalf by the Harris poll that will make your stomach uneasy. A full 44 percent of survey respondents stated that they would have some degree of discomfort with learning that their doctor is LGBT. Now, this statistic shows the most discomfort of any the questions pressed, but any discomfort is not OK. Other areas in which survey respondents reacted with some discomfort include learning that a family member is LGBT; electing an LGBT politician; learning that a close friend is LGBT; seeing an LGBT co-worker’s wedding picture; having LGBT members at your place of worship; learning a co-worker is LGBT; and having an LGBT person move in next door. All of those areas showed that more than 25 percent of the respondents would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. Think about that. It’s 2015, and we still have a substantial number of Americans who are uncomfortable with a community in situations that are otherwise considered normal?
Which is why I invite any and all readers of this piece to come forward with their feelings about the LGBT movement and show where your personal feelings stand on this issue. Are you comfortable with LGBT people? Are you uncomfortable? Do you have any stories that can help further acceptance with everyone? Are there angles, religious or otherwise, that can add to the discussion? Do you feel that LGBT people are welcome at Loras, in Dubuque, Iowa, the Midwest, or the country in general? Share your thoughts. Email us at the Lorian. Write responses to be shared in the next issue. Any discussion about this subject that will further acceptance is a worthy one.