Despite an extremely right leaning political climate over the past year, 2018 saw a substantial drop in media coverage related to LGBTQ issues than in years past.
That doesn’t mean noteworthy stories weren’t reported, however.
Here is qnotes’ look back at some of the significant events, controversies and achievements; and people we’ve lost over the last year.
Christian hate group puts out ‘research’ that says anti-discrimination laws can turn people gay
In an effort to stay relevant in a time when most Americans oppose anti-gay discrimination, the “Christian” conservative organization Family Research Council’s (FRC) Tony Perkins reared his aging head.
Just days before the Christmas holiday and the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, he called existing and proposed anti-discrimination laws “extreme” and added that they “will turn people gay and trans.”
The statements come in an effort to signal forthcoming plans to campaign against all anti-discrimination legislation for LGBTQ people.
The text directly from FRC’s press release titled “Why ‘Sexual Orientation’ and ‘Gender Identity’ Should Never Be Specially Protected Categories Under the Law,” says: “For such laws to be endorsed by citizens who believe that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual or transgender conduct is a logical contradiction … law is a teacher, and it is fundamentally unloving to ‘teach’ our neighbors that they will find happiness by engaging in unnatural sexual conduct or by adopting a gender identity inconsistent with their biology and genetics.”
Hard to believe this is text from the 21st century.
On an up note, former house speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Democrats will move forward with the Equality Act in the upcoming congressional session, which will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Can religious groups and the fight for LGBTQ equality find a common ground?
Surprisingly, some of the pro-trans efforts came from Republicans, who were likely motivated by the stain former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory left on the Republican party when he moved forward with anti-trans measures that painted a hateful, intolerant picture of the GOP and the state of North Carolina.
In late November, New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. John Sununu took an opposite path from McCrory when he threw caution to the wind and raised conservative ire after approving a trans protective measure.
On Dec. 1, Colorado cake shop owner Jack Philips was back in court, this time for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition. Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor (see below) when he refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. While Phillips cries discrimination for a second time, judges have postponed a ruling on the case until February 2019.
On Dec. 2, Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich implemented an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination. Kasich has hinted at another run for president in 2020, and is likely trying to attract moderate Republicans and Independents. He has also indicated further support (in some instances) for the LGBTQ community.
Also in December the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities agreed to guidelines that seek religious freedom protections combined with LGBTQ protections in employment, education, housing and adoption.
While the evangelical groups continue to stand by the “marriage is between one man and one woman” mantra, they both hope to achieve federally recognized protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, while maintaining the predictable dogmatic religious exemptions. For the first House session of 2019, they plan to introduce a draft of ”Fairness For All,” which they hope will capture bipartisan support from congress.
To be or not to be: Trump’s desperate attempt to ban Trans people from the military
On Nov. 23, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review three preliminary federal district court rulings that have kept the Trump administration from implementing its discriminatory plan to prevent transgender people from serving in the U.S. Armed Services. In the meantime, on Dec. 24 plaintiffs in all three cases said they will file briefs on Dec. 28 opposing the administration’s request that the Supreme Court hear the cases now, before the courts of appeal have ruled. The cases are Doe v. Trump, Stockman v. Trump, and Karnoski v. Trump. As of press time a decision had not been made yet.
“The U.S. Department of Justice [has] announced its intent to short-circuit established practice, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a preliminary district court ruling before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has even had an opportunity to rule,” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn announced.
“It is unconscionable that the Trump administration seems to be in such a rush to discriminate against perfectly qualified soldiers, sailors, marines and air force pilots, and patriotic Americans seeking only to serve their country,” said Andy Blevins, executive director, OutServe-SLDN. “Let the Ninth Circuit have the opportunity to rule on this preliminary issue on appeal. Let the process play out as it should.”
“The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on transgender troops, including those who are currently deployed overseas, are appalling and legally baseless,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Legal Director Shannon Minter. “The Trump administration has demonstrated no urgency that would justify leapfrogging the normal appellate process, and the military’s own account shows no problems that need to be addressed. By the military’s own account, inclusion of transgender servicemembers makes our military stronger.”
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi said, “The Trump administration is trying to do an end run around the normal review process in order to implement a cruel and baseless ban that destabilizes and weakens our military,” said. “At this moment when it is more important than ever to maintain the strength of core American institutions, it is vital that the Supreme Court maintain the integrity of the judicial process and deny the government’s request.”
GLAD and NCLR represent plaintiffs in both Doe and Stockman and were the first to challenge the ban.
“Around the world, thousands of brave transgender service members are away from their families during the holiday season, serving our country with honor,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. The organization brought the Stockman case on behalf its members. “But instead of thanking them for their service, President Trump is begging the Supreme Court to let his Administration discriminate against them. It’s indefensible.”
Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit, Karnoski v. Trump, in August 2017, on behalf of nine individual plaintiffs and three organizational plaintiffs — the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Seattle-based Gender Justice League and the American Military Partner Association (AMPA). The State of Washington later joined the lawsuit.
The district court in December 2017 granted the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction preventing implementation of the ban, which the DOJ chose not to challenge on appeal, and the court reaffirmed that preliminary ruling in April after the Trump administration released an implementation plan.
The administration appealed that latter ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral argument on October 10, 2018. The Ninth Circuit previously denied the DOJ’s request to stay the preliminary injunction during the appeal, which allowed transgender people to continue to serve.
While the DOJ declined to ask the Supreme Court for a stay while the appeal proceeded Trump and his supporters grew increasingly agitated by pressure from the far right.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s desperate desire to discriminate against transgender service members knows no bounds,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “The administration is in a rush because they know that every day that transgender people continue to enlist and serve with distinction is another day that the courts and the public see this irrational policy for what it is. There is simply no reason to circumvent the traditional judicial process in pursuit of banning qualified, patriotic Americans from serving their country.”
Trans Bathroom Issue Become a Non-Issue
In October, a federal court in Winston-Salem, N.C. ruled that House Bill 142, the 2017 law that replaced North Carolina’s notorious anti-LGBT measure House Bill 2, does not bar transgender people from using public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder also said that he would allow a challenge to the law’s ban on local LGBT nondiscrimination policies to go forward.
“Nothing in the language of Section 2 [of H.B. 142] can be construed to prevent transgender individuals from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity,” Judge Schroeder wrote.
“I am relieved to finally have the court unequivocally say that there is no law in North Carolina that can be used to bar transgender people from using restrooms that match who we are,” said Joaquin Carcaño, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
US Supreme Court won’t let gays eat cake
On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Colorado civil rights agency violated the religious rights of a Denver baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.
The Court ruling was limited, however, finding the state agency that rejected the baker’s religion and free speech claims had been improperly biased against him.
Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven released the following statement: “The Court … has offered dangerous encouragement to those who would deny civil rights to LGBT people. Lambda Legal will continue to fight the establishment of evangelical Christianity as the official government religion. We will fiercely resist the coming effort that will seek to turn this ruling into a broad license to discriminate.”
The ruling came in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the appeal of a 2012 case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against a Denver-based bakery on behalf of David Mullins and Charlie Craig, a gay couple who sought to purchase a cake for their wedding reception. Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips declined to bake a cake for Mullins and Craig, citing his religious beliefs.
Ban on conversion therapy
In February, New Hampshire became the only state to enact a ban on gay “conversion therapy” in 2018, aimed at protecting LGBTQ youth. A report released by the Williams Institute the preceding month pointed to a staggeringly high number of teens who are likely to experience such “treatment” in states without such protection.
From the report: an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18, the study confirms. Approximately 57,000 more youth will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor. The researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives.
For many years questionable healthcare professionals and religious figures have used a range of techniques to attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Among those “aversion treatments,” are inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis or applying electric shocks.
In addition to New Hampshire, the following states outlawed “conversion therapy” prior to 2018: New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware and Maryland.That leaves 36 states without any protection.
Pending federal legislation — the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act — would outlaw the practice nationwide.