Updated: Oct 18, 2021
The LGBTQ+ community has been fighting to be recognized as a part of society for centuries. More recently, the American government has been playing a game of tug-and-war with the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Over the last three and a half years, President Donald Trump and his administration have been diligently working to strip away policies protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
Within his first hours of office, numerous governmental websites, including the White House’s national page, removed information on LGBTQ+ recognition and rights. The administration has also been working to reduce transgender citizens’ identity protections, with the Health and Human Services proposing a new definition of sex, limited to simply male or female, which would be unchangeable after birth. The list of transgressions goes on. During his time in office, Trump has
supported employment discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by submitting amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court which backed gay discrimination
passed regulations which allow federal contractors to claim religious exemption when firing those suspected of being homosexual
banned transgender service members and those living with HIV from the military
created a Religious Discrimation Division whose main goal is to defend medical professionals who refuse care (including to LGBTQ+ patients)
rolled back Obama-era guidelines which required schools to treat transgender students in a manner consistent with their gender identity
withheld funds to schools that allowed transgender youth to participate in sports that aligned with their gender identity
granted emergency shelters the right to refuse access to nonconforming and transgender citizens
allowed intentionally placing incarcerated transgender people in prisons that did not align with their gender identity, putting them at higher risk of sexual assault, among other dangers
allowed foster programs to discriminate against same sex couples while accepting tax-payer funds
denied LGBTQ+ asylum seekers fleeing from violence
banned U.S. embassies from flying the Pride flag during Pride Month
refused to condemn Chechnyan and Bruneian violence against homosexuals, which included death by whipping, stoning, and torture
Though many laws and regulations have been made to oppress the LGBTQ+ community, the U.S. Congress has taken some steps to promote equality. The House has taken a major leap towards tolerance, just last year voting on and passing the Equality Act. This act, if eventually pushed through the Senate, where it sits today, would outline explicit anti-discriminatory protections for LGBTQ+ citizens in jury service, federally funded programs, public spaces and services, education, credit, housing, and employment.
Other than establishing this groundbreaking act, just this past year the number of LGBTQ+ congresspeople reached a record-high in the double digits. There are now ten open members of the LGBTQ+ community in Congress. However, to accurately display the American demographic, around 54 LGBTQ+ people should hold a Congressional position, as the LGBTQ+ community makes up ten percent of the population.
The Supreme Court has also been warring with themselves, taking several different stances on LGBTQ+ rights. Two years ago, they ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple due to a religious objection. This kind of discrimination, refusal of service, occurs nationwide and continues to this day.
However, on June 15, 2020, they ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to the millions of LGBTQ+ Americans. Title VII barred employment discrimination on the base of national origin, religion, race, and sex. This court case extended the definition of “sex” to encompass the LGBTQ+ community. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the ten LGBTQ+ people in Congress, wrote the next day, “This decision is far from radical, but it is transformative. It means that, at long last, in every corner of this country, in big cities and small towns, LGBTQ+ people are waking up in a fairer nation.” On Sunday, June 14, 2020, it was legal in 27 states to fire an employee simply for being gay or transgender. On Monday, June 15, 2020, it was not.
For the past 30 years, there has been a growing tolerance and even acceptance of LGBTQ+ culture within America. Around 70% of all U.S. citizens, according to Gallup polls, agree that gay relationships should be treated equal to heteronormative ones. As we have seen a growing diversity in our leadership, both national and local, the embrace of the LGBTQ+ community has been spreading. Opposing this trend, in recent years, the upward curve of acceptance has been tapering off. While America watches those in power refuse to condemn violence against the LGBTQ+ community and strip rights away from LGBTQ+ citizens, some hearts have been changing to match this new beat.
Over these past four years, extreme action has been taken to hurt the LGBTQ+ American community. On the other side of that balance, unprecedented steps have been taken to protect LGBTQ+ people. Our national government has been at war with itself, with Americans’ lived experiences taking the brunt of the blows. While Trump’s Administration works to tear down laws that protect homosexual and transgender citizens, Congress struggles to pass landmark laws that would change the lives of LGBTQ+ Americans. All the while, the Supreme Court fights within itself, at times seeming to contradict previous rulings.
However, it all circles back to young people. Though our leadership may preach a different message, young people are attempting to usher in a new era of love and tolerance. Younger people are being voted in every year and are aiding the fight for equality. As found by the Pew Research Center, 83% of ages 18 to 29 agree that homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to just 58% of those 65 and older.
Would you like to see gays and lesbians be more widely accepted in this nation, less widely accepted, or is the acceptance of gays and lesbians in this nation today about right?
“Yeah, I mean, you love who you love. It is not something you can control. Attraction is not a choice. I 100% believe that more rights and protections are needed for the queer community. I want to see more laws passed that legitimize LGBTQ+ people, and don’t want to see my community passed off as insane or unstable. With religion, as long as there’s Christainity there will be controversy. In the bible, in certain translations, a lot of things got lost. In many stories, Jesus helped homosexual couples. People will project their opinions onto what they read, which can birth love, or hate. There’s always room for more love, so yeah, I want to see it to become a more widely accepted thing. It shouldnt just be LGBTQ+, straight, or gay love. It should just be love.” Jennifer Flanagan, 14, Rising Sophomore, Tartan High School, Woodbury, MN
“I think the younger generation doesn’t care about sexual orientation, at least the majority of them. Otherwise, as you get to older generations, there will be more and more people that don’t necessarily agree with the things that are becoming okay in society today. I havent seen any legal discrimination, or seen news about someone legally discriminating against gay people. As long as we have laws that don’t allow someone to refuse service, or kick people out just because of their sexuality, then we are good. In the future our families will be more accepting, and that will spread to the media, and other places. I mean, yeah, we want full acceptance.” Adrian Anderson, 15, Rising Sophomore, Cedarburg High School, Cedarburg, WI
“I think that most people are supportive of the queer community, especially our generation (gen Z) and millennials. Not so much the older generations, because that is how they grew up – they were raised that way. I think that we need to get rid of laws Trump has passed that discriminate against gay foster parents. I also feel that the most discrimination is from people, like social media and person to person. That is hard to change, because there are always people like that. I think that in time, most people will be generally on the same page. New couples are teaching their children to be kind, and not to discriminate. However, there will always be some homophobic people. I think gay marriage acceptance is leaning towards more support. I want the gay community and trans community to be more widely accepted. Especially the trans community. I feel like most people are on board with gay, but not necessarily trans. And I want to see that change, and for them to be more widely accepted.” Ella Fahey, 14, Rising Sophomore, Tartan High School, Woodbury, MN