Giving Thanks and Moving Forward in the Movement for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination

By Shane Stahl • November 22, 2017 • 11:59 am

2017 has been a tough year for many communities in the United States, including the LGBTQ community. Lawmakers in many states have pushed discriminatory legislation, and the White House has begun its campaign to roll back existing policies protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

But every cloud – even the dark clouds that have lingered in 2017 – has a silver lining, and today on Thanksgiving,  Freedom For All Americans is focusing all that we have to be grateful for. With growing support for non-discrimination nationwide, we look forward to continuing the fight for the remainder of 2017 and into the new year. The following are just some of the things we are thankful for this season:

Wide Opposition to the Trump Administration’s Anti-LGBTQ Actions

Reaction to Trump administration actions meant to chip away at the progress of the LGBTQ community has been swift and strong. A ban issued by the administration on transgender troops serving openly in the military was blocked on October 30 and November 21 by two federal judges, following an outpouring of fiercely bipartisan support nationwide – including an unprecedented poll that found majority opposition to the ban in every single state. Furthermore, people across the country have continued to advocate for basic dignity for transgender students, including standing up against attempts to restrict restroom access for transgender kids, flying in the face of the administration, which rescinded protections for these students in February.

Defeat of Numerous Anti-LGBTQ Bills

To date, the movement for non-discrimination has successfully defeated more than 150 pieces of legislation meant to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Notably, Texas Competes and Equality Texas held strong and beat back an anti-transgender bathroom bill in the Lone Star State’s heated legislative session, and Washington Won’t Discriminate fended off a divisive ballot measure in Washington state. These victories have prepared us to be even more ready to continue the fight in 2018 and stand against those who would seek to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

Transgender Candidates Win Big in 2017 Elections

Earlier this November, an unprecedented and historic number of transgender candidates were elected to public office, creating momentum and building energy for the 2018 elections. Danica Roem became the first ever openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislative office (defeating the author of an anti-transgender bathroom bill in the process), and in Minneapolis, the first ever transgender people of color were elected to office — Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, both to city council. This momentum is more important than ever leading into 2018 as we look to continue the fight for non-discrimination, particularly by beating back an anti-LGBTQ ballot initiative in Anchorage, AK and protecting LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts.

Positive Movement for Anti-Discrimination in the Courts

The judicial system has served the LGBTQ community well in 2017, continuing to move along cases concerning anti-LGBTQ discrimination and rule in favor of protections. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appellate court to recognize that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers sex discrimination based on sexual orientation in Lambda Legal’s Hively case, and a similar case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, currently awaits judgement before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Students See Victories Against Anti-Transgender Bathroom Policies

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of Ash Whitaker, a transgender student in the Kenosha Unified School District who was denied access to the boys’ restroom, despite his identity as a boy. In August, a federal court ruled that the Boyertown School District in Berks County, Pennsylvania, must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender they’ve always known themselves to be.

Thousands of Amicus Briefs Filed in Court Cases Related to Non-Discrimination

Thousands of “friend of the court” briefs were filed this year in support of two major non-discrimination cases: Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, who filed suit against his school district for restricting his access to the restroom, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a baker denied service to a same-sex couple, citing his religious beliefs and freedom of expression.

Freedom For All Americans knows we must harness this energy and momentum in order to gear up for legislative sessions and elections in 2018, specifically in Alaska and Massachusetts, where issues regarding anti-LGBT discrimination will be on the ballot.

Today on Thanksgiving, we take a breath, express our gratitude, and recommit to the work ahead.


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