From the April 10, 2019 issue of Between the Lines Newspaper
Lori Lightfoot was elected Mayor of Chicago!
Let that sink in – an African-American Lesbian was elected Mayor of the nation’s third largest city. If that wasn’t historic enough, on the same day Madison, Wisconsin, and Kansas City, Missouri, also elected queer women as mayors – Satya Rhodes-Conway and Jolie Justus.
Now let this sink in.
On the same day as these historic wins, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the reintroduced Equality Act that would protect LGBTQ people nationwide from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
No this isn’t an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or a parallel universe in some graphic novel. It’s right here in the United States of America where three queer women can get elected mayors of their respective cities but in 30 out of 50 states, they have no protections at work, school, housing and from receiving many services including medical care.
Hard to believe that in these days, despite significant steps forward, LGBTQ people lack basic legal protections in all 50 states across the country. The patchwork nature of current laws means that protections in one state could disappear with a move or job transfer leaving LGBTQ people subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination impacting our safety and that of our families, as well as our day-to-day lives.
The Equality Act was jointly introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate on March 13, 2019, with the support of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. But as they say it’s not our first rodeo before these bodies, fighting for these protections.
The original Equality Act was developed by U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch in 1974. It was reintroduced in the 114th Congress in 2015 and again in the 115th Congress in 2017. But still, LGBTQ Americans remain unprotected from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system.
If approved by Congress, the measure would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.
So maybe it will be different this time.
After seeing many of the significant steps forward LGBTQ communities under the Obama Administration come under attack since the 2016 elections, the House is once again under control of the Democratic party.
And unlike, past efforts when the Equality Act received weak bipartisan support, the 2019 bill was introduced with 287 original co-sponsors – the most congressional support that any piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation has received upon introduction.
It also has 161 corporate sponsors with operations across all 50 states, including Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Facebook and Twitter.
National civil rights organizations including the NAACP, international human rights organizations, as well as major professional associations, also joined in in support of the 2019 Equality Act.
And the testimonies.
Jami Contreras telling how doctors refused to treat her infant daughter because she and her wife were lesbians. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D) from Washington’s 7th congressional district, which includes most of Seattle, sharing her personal account of being a mother to a “gender non-conforming child. And my friend, and founder of Black Transmen Inc., Carter Brown telling how he was fired because of his gender identity.
Unfortunately, these hearings were not shown during prime time and didn’t receive as broad a coverage as the elections. These testimonies were powerful.
They were each different but as Dennis Wiley, pastor of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ said in his testimony “No two discriminations are the same … but it’s still discrimination.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, was a historic moment in time.
We saw three queer women elected to the highest office in their municipalities, one the first African-American woman mayor of the nation’s third largest city.
We saw hearings open on the Equality Act to provide protection for our communities, our families in all 50 states with greater support than ever before.
We’ve come a long way, but we also saw the hope of Tuesday tempered with the reality that homophobia, transphobia and social inequality still exist not only in society at large but in our community as well.
At the hearings, Julia Beck, a lesbian Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist testified in opposition to protecting gender identity under the Equality Act. A Duke Law School professor testified she was concerned with transgender women forcing cisgender women out of sports.
Texas Representative Louie Gohmert implied that transgender people were not honest about their gender identity. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said while he was against the discrimination of the LGBTQ community, he worried that “bad actors” would take advantage of programs set up for women.
Can we just call these arguments what they are: BULLSHIT!
We’ve come a long way but with every victory comes more work.
We must hold our three new mayors accountable to do the real work, using the wisdom and strength gained from our past struggles against hatred, discrimination and inequality to do better not just for LGBTQ Americans but for everybody.
And as members of the LGBTQ community, we must continue to tell our stories. Silence is not an option – stand up, speak out.
IT’S TIME TO PASS THE EQUALITY ACT NOW!
*by Michelle E. Brown (Between the Lines Newspaper January 17, 2019)
It’s January 2019 and we haven’t had our gay march yet!
In 2017 we joined the women. We shared our outrage and fears from the results of the 2016 election of No. 45.
It was the first women’s march and that was OK. We were all traumatized. We all shook our heads in collective disbelief as this era of injustice, fearmongering, hatred and regressive politics began.
Just as the rhetoric of the campaign warned us that a Trump presidency would pose as great a threat to our community as it did to every woman taking it to the streets that January.
Many of us felt the double threat not only as women but because we carried the LGBTQ card as lesbians and trans women. We knew there was no shortage of hatred in that toxic orange fog – women, immigrants, LGBTQ, the poor – we all were feeling the clear and present danger of the incoming administration.
Again in 2018, under the umbrella of the Women’s March, we rallied to take our power to the polls. We were again included on the stage, recognized in the remarks and marched shoulder to shoulder with our sisters.
We celebrated the wins of our LGBTQ candidates from the 2017 elections including Danica Roem in Virginia and Andrea Jenkins in Minnesota along with the other 20-plus women elected across the country. Our anger had purpose and in solidarity we vowed to take our power to the polls for the midterm elections
And we did! In 2018 record numbers registered to vote. Women, people of color LGBTQ candidates ran for office. We did what we promised showing up at the polls, “grabbing them by the midterms,” flipping the House of Representatives from red to blue.
A record 117 women were elected across the country in various positions and with at least 153 of the 225 LGBTQ and Ally candidates, endorsed by the Victory Fund, also winning office.
This January, 2019, women will gather in cities across the country to celebrate the #WomensWave.
Unlike in past years, when attendees included waves of “pink pussy” hats which some found offensive to transgender women, gender nonbinary people and to women of color, it’s been suggested that marchers wear blue perhaps because many called for a #BlueWave as well as a #WomensWave last November.
And like in past years, many of us will again join in and march shoulder to shoulder with our sisters to send a message to the grand old party of patriarchy still controlling the White House and Senate that more change is coming. But this year, maybe members of the LGBTQ community should step out from under the umbrella and celebrate our Queer wave!
We need to celebrate our victories and strategize how to not only build upon the momentum of the 2018 midterms but work towards future victories to protect our rights while gaining greater equality and justice in 2020 and beyond at local, state and national levels.
I am a Democrat, a woman, a person of color and African-American; like many in the LGBTQ community, I have been let down on all fronts when I’ve stepped out in my rainbow cape in all my queer glory.
Don’t get me wrong I am excited that we had blue/women’s Wave in November, but let’s be real how often have we been left out in the rain for political expediency by our political “friends.” This big umbrella can have leaks.
Our transgender community is still under attack, dying and being disrespected even in death. The current administration has tried repeatedly to enact policies harmful to LGBTQ individuals and families. And the antagonistic, homophobic and transphobic climate created by these policies and rhetoric has seeped into other levels of government and discourse across the country.
Despite higher visibility in the media and politics, our seat at the table has not resulted in a permanent change of what’s being served.
Do you feel safer, more optimistic about our path to justice and inclusion than you did before November 2016? For many, especially our LGBTQ elders, youth and in many communities, the answer is often a resounding no!!
But now is not the time to be afraid, loose our resolve or go back in the closet. In 2019 it’s time we have our own march and it is happening in Detroit at Creating Change.
Creating Change was started in 1988 one year after the national march for gay and lesbian rights. 32 years after that march the message to the LGBTQ community remains the same beyond marching “go home and get to work.”
And that’s exactly what will be happening from Jan. 23 to 27, when over 3,000 LGBTQ activist come home to what has been affectionately called our “annual gay family reunion” to meet, greet, educate, strategize and celebrate the state of our community.
So, let’s put on our rainbow capes, bandanas or other gay apparel and march into Creating Change this January with such resolve, so much determination, with all our queerness that the world sees we’re not going any place.
Let’s march into Creating Change then go home and get to work not on a wave, but on a freaking rainbow tsunami!