The LGBTQ community celebrated a historic victory in June when the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination under federal civil rights laws. The ruling immediately improved the lives of 6 million LGBTQ Americans who live in one of our country’s 28 states that lack explicit employment protections for LGBTQ workers under state law.
Importantly, the victory was a 6-3 ruling authored by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, for a majority conservative Court. Polls show that a supermajority of Americans — 72 percent in a recent PRRI poll — support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. This includes 61 percent of Republicans, whose support has grown to above 50 percent in every state. Bipartisan consensus for nationwide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections is rising quickly, with the bipartisan composition of the Court’s majority opinion just one of the latest high-profile examples.
The fact that a growing majority of American conservatives are evolving toward a conclusion that LGBTQ people should be able to live with dignity and respect is a reflection of our movement’s strategy and key to our longterm success. All of the states that currently lack statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections are partially or fully controlled by Republican legislatures. Similarly, passing a federal law through Congress to secure protections nationwide will likely require Republican support in the U.S. Senate. Yet, even without needing Republican votes to win, we should still seek to secure them. Bipartisan advances are unifying, less vulnerable to attack by future legislators or administrations, and more likely to be secure and permanent, as LGBTQ people need and deserve.
Freedom for All Americans was founded specifically to bring together Americans from all walks of life — conservatives and progressives, businesses large and small, people of faith, LGBTQ people, and other allies who support us — to turbo charge our movement’s efforts to make the case for nationwide nondiscrimination protections that ensure every American is treated fairly and equally. As the national climate becomes increasingly polarized, our work is more important than ever. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, LGBTQ people are still vulnerable to harassment and discrimination in most areas of daily life in most states. This includes being evicted from an apartment, turned away from a medical provider, rejected by a food bank, or denied service at restaurant, store, or hundreds of other public spaces where we all carry out our daily lives.
The lack of protections causes disproportionate harm to LGBTQ people in rural areas, where there are fewer services and businesses to access if they are turned away. And as always, LGBTQ people who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color — particularly Black transgender women — face especially high rates of discrimination and violence. Being denied the ability to buy groceries, attain lifesaving health care, or access much-needed governmental programs is devastating at any time, but especially during a national public health crisis like the current pandemic.
That’s why it’s so important that we continue the work of uniting progressives and conservatives to pass LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Fairness, freedom and opportunity are not partisan values. They’re American values. The Golden Rule that guides each of us to treat our neighbors the way we want to be treated is not about politics — it’s about people. By telling our stories and helping more Americans become familiar with who we are, we are building a space for all people to open their hearts and respond to the needs of their LGBTQ neighbors. That’s how over the past five years, Freedom for All Americans has helped pass nondiscrimination laws for the first time in Republican-controlled states and municipalities, and in the South; and has successfully defended nondiscrimination protections with majorities at the ballot box from Alaska to Massachusetts.
For over 50 years, the LGBTQ community has worked to secure basic protections from discrimination in daily life. The recent Supreme Court victory is a milestone, but federal legislation is the only way to ensure LGBTQ people are uniformly protected in all areas of life.
The next Congress may offer that opportunity. We must double down on our efforts to bring all fair-minded Americans to the task of ensuring dignity and respect for their LGBTQ friends, family members, and neighbors. And we must secure a consensus-driven victory that will not only save lives, but which will endure over time.
Whether it acts or not on this issue, each Congress sends a message about where LGBTQ people fit in the fabric of America. It’s time that congressmembers come together to acknowledge that America’s heart is big enough to include LGBTQ people and pass the comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections that will move us closer to the American promise that we all seek — liberty and justice for all.
Kasey Suffredini is the CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans.