As we all know, last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The historic decision marked a high point in the fight for LGBT rights in the U.S.; it also highlighted just how spotty anti-discrimination measures are around the country. As many have pointed out, though it’s now legal for same-sex couples to get married around the country, in a number of states it’s just as legal to discriminate against that newly married couple in a variety of other essential aspects of life. That is, you can get married on Sunday, fired on Monday, evicted on Tuesday, and denied a hotel room on Wednesday.
And while last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that in the workplace, at least, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal under an interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one can’t help but feel that leaving the question of legality when considering discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (the EEOC ruled that gender identity was protected under Title VII in 2012) up to the interpretation of a more than 50-year-old law that almost certainly didn’t intend to provide protection on this basis feels precarious.
That’s why a new bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act to explicitly include gender identity and sexual orientation must be enacted into law. That’s why the Equality Act is, in its original, unamended state, is what we as a country need in the next steps of the fight towards social and legal acceptance. If for nothing else, the law makes clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation is no more welcomed than discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, national origin, or disability. Which is to say that just as discrimination continues against those groups, there is no ambiguity whether or not it’s legal.
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) July 23, 2015
Fixing the law, however, is just a single step in the direction of the larger issue: fixing society. There’s a dangerous intersection where race, gender, and sexuality meet, which is why queer people of color face the brunt of a culture so steeped in racism, transphobia, misogyny, and homophobia whether or not legal protections exist.
— AVP (@antiviolence) June 26, 2015
A whopping 80 percent of victims in anti-LGBT murders are people of color. Despite making up a relatively tiny portion of the broader LGBT population, transgender women of color accounted for half of all anti-LGBT murders in 2014. Trans people of color were more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted at work in comparison to the general population. A 2011 report shows that 13 percent of trans people of color surveyed were currently homeless; for white trans people, that number is just 0.5 percent. Trans people of color were more than three times as likely than white trans people to be physically attacked in a place of public accommodation like a public restroom, emergency room, retail store, or restaurant.
In other words, while discrimination affects white LGBT individuals, it’s nowhere near as rough (or dangerous) as the discrimination and violence experienced by LGBT people of color.
Meet Patricia, ACLU client & woman fired from her job b/c she is trans on the need for federal protections for all. http://t.co/nYkIbvWsRl
— ACLU National (@ACLU) July 23, 2015
The ambiguous, patchwork status of LGBT anti-discrimination laws puts those at the intersections of oppression at risk by making it easy to justify seeing these individuals as being less than human. This new bill — which sadly, appears dead on arrival in both the House and Senate — will not solve all the problems faced by LGBT people of color, but it would lay the groundwork for the challenges left to go in fighting back against a culture of white supremacy, homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia that harms queer people of color in such a profound way.
Image via @RepCicilline.