LGBTQ+ Civil Rights

This article is cross-posted from the ZS intranet (which we call ZSpace), where I write episodically about issues of interest to the LGBTQ+ community and our allies. It’s been lightly edited for an external audience.

It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks in the world of LGBTQ politics, and I thought it might be useful to provide a summary for those that may not be as in tune with that slice of the U.S. national news.

Just over a week ago, the Trump administration informed U.S. embassies that the would not be permitted to fly Pride flags on their flagpoles during Pride Month.  Embassies have found workarounds, including hanging the flag on interior and exterior walls instead, but the fact remains that use of the official flagpole has been prohibited.  This comes at the same moment that Trump communicated via Twitter that the administration seeks to celebrate LGBT people and Pride Month.  Quite a mixed message!  You can learn a bit more about the reasons why in this NBC News article.  

The second big announcement of the week was not good news, either.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will no longer support gender identity protections in healthcare.  Needless to say that is a huge step backwards, and particularly alarming in the context of a global pandemic.  The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has created a simple and informative document about Section 1557, which you can read here.  But in short, these are the drivers:

You can read more about the decision on the NPR website, here – Transgender Health Protections Reversed By Trump Administration : Shots – Health News : NPR .  The language from HHS is confusing, giving the impression that the change is not a cause for concern.  But it is serious enough that the HRC is using their newly created litigation team to file a lawsuit against the administration on the topic. 

Since June 2015, LGBTQ persons have had the right to marry, but in 38 out of the 50 states, we could still be fired based on our sexual orientation or gender identity.   It has definitely been an uncomfortable mixed bag from a civil rights perspective!  However, this week we finally received some good news.  Many more of you will have read that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that LGBTQ individuals’ employment status is protected under Civil Rights law.  What’s particular interesting about this ruling to me is the fact that we were not anticipating such a positive outcome; in the Fall, the SCOTUS blog described a divided court.   So, this is a huge victory, albeit a bit confusing in light of the other communications I outlined above.  So, now we can be married and we can’t be fired … but our healthcare is still not protected?!  The fact that each civil right is being individually challenged makes for a really difficult landscape. Still, in this moment of Pride Month (and in spite of all the other messages we’ve received this week), it is cause for celebration! 

As we look ahead to the remainder of the month, I thank those of you in those of you in the Pride@ZS community who have been actively working to adapt your programming to include our colleagues from the Black and Hispanic Alliance (BHA), as well as discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement.  I watched a really nice video earlier this week (which, sadly, I can’t seem to locate), basically celebrating intersectionality (which I wrote about two weeks ago, here).  It made the key point that gay rights are Black history; so much of our movement and our success has been driven by the fight of our Black and Hispanic colleagues.  For a taste of what I mean you could read the Wikipedia entry for Marsha P Johnson, who – together with Silvia Rivera – is credited for the Stonewall uprising that has since become Pride Month.  If you’re interesting in learning more, for starters you could follow LGBT_History, The Gay TimesLGBT, and LGBTQ on Instagram.  All of them heavily emphasize the connection with and importance of our shared fight for Civil Rights with our Black, Hispanic, and indigenous friends.  

Wishing you all the best as Pride Month continues to unfold!

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