Finally, some good news on LGBTQ Equality from the United States
While for many years, the US has been one of the leading advocates of LGBTQ equality, things have clearly been slipping backwards under the Trump administration.
There are, however, occasional glimmers of hope.
Today, the US Supreme Court has announced its ruling on an important case about anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The good news is that the court has confirmed that the country’s current laws include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
The decision was a majority verdict (6-3). Given that the court has become more conservative since 2015’s marriage equality, the outcome is a bit surprising. Effectively, the decision extends federal workplace protections to LGBTQ employees across the United States. This overrides a state-by-state framework which left many LGBTQ employees unprotected and at risk of being fired if they revealed their sexuality.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender…” wrote justice Neil Gorsuch in his judgement. “The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
Attacks against Trans people
In one of its latest moves, the Trump administration has announced that it is rolling back Obama-era regulations that protected Trans people against discrimination in health care.
The announcement was made on 12 June – the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. That’s either wilfully insensitive or provocatively offensive.
According to the new version of the policy, the Department of Health and Human Services will be “returning to the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology”. The Obama regulation defined gender as a person’s internal sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.
The policy shift will allow healthcare providers and insurance companies that receive federal funding to refuse to provide or cover transition-related care for Trans people.
Responding to the announcement, the Human Rights Campaign has announced that it will be filing a legal challenge to the new policy.
Is it legal to be gay in the US?
One of the complexities of the experience of LGBTQ people in the United States is that much of the legislative framework for the country varies on a state-by-state basis.
It was only as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2003 that same-sex sexual activity has been legal in all US states.
There is still some variation in the age of consent – it varies from 16 to 18, and some states have different ages of consent for same-sex sexual relations.
Is there anti-discrimination legislation in place to protect LGBTQ people in the US?
Yes. The 2020 decision by the Supreme Court extended federal anti-discrimination protections to all employees across the country. This now means that LGBTQ employees can’t be fired for revealing their sexuality.
Is there marriage equality in the US?
It was a 2015 Supreme Court decision that requires all states to licence and recognise same-sex marriages.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in the US?
There have been huge advancements for LGBTQ people, with some landmark Supreme Court cases that have made symbolic and practical steps forward in achieving equality.
The modern LGBTQ Pride movement was born in the US in 1970 – marking the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. The month of June is now designated as Pride Month across the US, with a huge number of parades and events held in communities of all sizes.
In many ways, the US could be described as one of the best countries in the world to be gay, however numerous problems still exist.
The attack against the gay club in Orlando in 2016 was obviously an extreme event, but 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured in what should have been a safe space.
LGBTQ teen homelessness and rates of self-harm and suicide are disturbingly high – particularly for people from non-white ethnicities.
Trans people are routinely vilified by conservative politicians. Black Trans Women are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.
The election of Donald Trump as President (he took office in January 2017) has raised significant concerns for LGBTQ people in the US . There has been a roll-back of equality for Trans people, and the religious and conservative right appears to have been emboldened to tackle a number of the equality gains that had been achieved in received years.
What’s the US like as a destination for LGBTQ visitors?
Many of the major destinations in the US actively market to LGBTQ travellers, recognising the value of LGBTQ tourism.
Some caution should be exercised outside of the major cities, but generally you’re going to be fine to just be yourself.