By Molly Sprayregen, LGBTQ Nation
With so many LGBTQ rights under attack over the past four years, it is important to pause for a moment to remember the wins.
While 2020 certainly may not feel like a year of wins, the LGBTQ community did in fact experience some victories worth celebrating:
- The Supreme Court said anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination is illegal
In June, LGBTQ people rejoiced over the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal.
This means it is illegal in the entire country to fire someone for being LGBTQ.
The decision was based on three cases, one involving a transgender woman and two involving gay men, all who alleged they were fired by their employers due to their LGBTQ identities. These terminations, their lawyers argued, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Supreme Court agreed.
The historic decision was written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said, “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.”
"In many ways this is an even bigger decision than the Obergefell decision that came down five years ago. Not everyone will want to get married, but everybody has to have a job."—Our CEO @KJennings on @NPR's @hereandnow. #DecisionDay #TitleVIIhttps://t.co/ZI8VNktsS8
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) June 15, 2020
- Utah and Virginia banned conversion therapy For LGBTQ youth
This year, Utah and Virginia became the 19th and 20th states to ban conversion therapy, an extremely harmful practice that studies show can lead to a rise in suicide attempts.
An administrative rule banning the practice for LGBTQ youth in Utah went into effect in January and was issued by the state’s Republican Governor, Gary Herbert.
Virginia’s ban made it the first southern state to ban conversion therapy for minors.
“Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (R) in March. “No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are — especially not a child. I’m proud to sign this ban into law.”
In a state where so many LGBTQ are vulnerable this is a very important step, but the next step is to remove the exceptions. Utah Bans Discredited LGBTQ 'Conversion Therapy' : NPR https://t.co/CJmGBdNpfL
— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) January 23, 2020
- Three states & District of Columbia banned the gay and trans panic defenses
This year, New Jersey, Washington, and Colorado, become the 9th, 10th, and 11th states to ban the “Gay and Trans Panic Defense.”
Now, it is no longer allowed in these states to argue in court that a defendant committed murder due to “panic” after discovering their victim was LGBTQ. Washington D.C. has since banned the defense “strategy” as well.
Banning this defense is a big deal. According to the National LGBT Bar Association, dozens of murderers have been acquitted by using it.
“Gay and trans panic defenses are rooted in homophobia and abhorrent excuses that should never be used to justify violence against vulnerable populations,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in a January statement. “With this new law, we are enacting critical measures to protect our friends and neighbors in the LGBTQ+ community.”
we are the 9th state to ban the “gay or trans panic defense” – a homophobic defense that has no place in the garden state.
— New Jersey (@NJGov) January 30, 2020
- Virginia Passed Several Pro-Equality Bills
In 2019, Democrats took control of the Virginia legislature for the first time in over twenty years. Lawmakers in the state wasted no time in passing sweeping progressive legislation, including measures to protect the LGBTQ community.
In March, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed three bills into law to increase protections for LGBTQ Virginians.
One bill requires the Department of Education to create policies to protect transgender students in elementary and secondary schools. Another expands the definition of a hate crime to include crimes committed based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability.
The third bill, sponsored by the first out transgender person in the Virginia General Assembly, Delegate Danica Roem, gives localities the authority to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, public accommodations, credit, employment and education.
And that’s not all. In April, Gov. Northam signed a bill passing anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the state. Virginia is the 21st state to do so.
— Equality Virginia (@EqualityVA) April 11, 2020
- America voted for a rainbow wave of elected officials
More LGBTQ candidates were elected to public office in 2020 than ever before.
Three hundred thirty-four LGBTQ candidates won their elections this year, many of whom became the first LGBTQ person to hold their position.
Candidates like Delaware’s Sarah McBride, the nation’s first out transgender state senator, and New York’s Ritchie Torres, one of the two first out gay Black members of Congress, have made 2020 a year of shattered rainbow ceilings. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Jessica Benham, of Allegheny County, became the first out LGBTQ woman to be elected to the General Assembly.
This increase in queer representation is sure to lead to even more legislative wins in the future.
Meet the 2020 rainbow wave 🏄♀️🌊🏳️🌈https://t.co/8nxgkfS0eY
— GLAAD (@glaad) November 5, 2020
- President-Elect Joe Biden promised to advance LGBTQ protections in office
At the #LGBTQLeaders20 conference organized by the @VictoryInst, President-elect @JoeBiden remarked that he and @KamalaHarris is committed to leading “the most pro-equality administration in history,” but he can’t do it without @SpeakerPelosi. pic.twitter.com/5tM7rVJN2k
— LGBTQ Nation (@lgbtqnation) December 6, 2020
Not only will President-elect Joe Biden be the first president to enter the White House supporting marriage equality, but once sworn in, he has promised a wave of change for the LGBTQ community, and especially for transgender people.
Some of his pledges include reversing the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender people in the military, reinstating Obama era protections for transgender students in schools, and utilizing federal resources to curb violence against trans people.
Biden has also promised to prioritize passing the Equality Act during his first 100 days in office. The Equality Act would ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination at the national level.
While these changes haven’t yet happened, it seems the LGBTQ community has a few things to look forward to in 2021.
Let’s be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 25, 2020
Molly Sprayregen is a columnist for LGBTQ Nation, where this piece first appeared. Visit the site for more.