by Daniel Tilley, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Florida; ACS Next Generation Leader
By now it is cliché to observe that the advancements in equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the past decade or so have been simply astounding. The victories have indeed been incredible, manifested not just in the securing of formal legal equality in some legislative and regulatory bodies but also dramatic shifts in public opinion and major wins in courts and administrative agencies (and, most recently, in President Obama’s announcement of a forthcoming executive order banning workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors). This is something to celebrate.
But the fight is far from over, and complacency is not an option. The triumphs of the past few years have created a sense of inevitability that can serve as a useful advocacy tool but that may also blind us to the challenges that remain ahead. Some things—like marriage for same-sex couples—really are inevitable (and I am proud to be the lead counsel in the ACLU of Florida’s case challenging Florida’s ban on recognizing marriages of same-sex couples); but marriage equality is only inevitable because countless people have been working for decades (and are continuing to work) to make it so. While the marriage equality movement will hopefully be sliding into home plate in one of the next two Supreme Court terms, there remains a long, hard road ahead on other issues.
For example, many people are still shocked to hear that most states have no laws explicitly prohibiting employers from firing someone simply for being gay or transgender. While litigation will have a role to play in that fight as well, the real heavy lifting will have to be done in state legislatures (and not a single southern state has a non-discrimination law barring discrimination against LGBT people). Despite supermajority support for employment protections for LGBT people, legislatures are fertile ground for the harmful stereotypes and misinformation about LGBT people that continue to exist, thanks in substantial part to the harmful and misguided work of anti-LGBT groups.