President Biden is now safely installed in the White House as the 46th President of the United States, and he’s off to a good start on following through on his campaign promises to our community. For example, this week the President signed an executive order lifting the ban on trans people in the military. Last week he issued a wide reaching executive order to help ensure LGBT equality throughout the country.
There still is work to be done through the executive branch of government which he controls, as well as through the various departments and agencies in the administration, but the true next step falls to Congress: the Equality Act. This is the crown jewel in LGBT civil rights. We are not equal citizens until we have the same rights as others protected by law, not simply executive orders since, as we’ve seen, it only takes a new President to overrule those orders.
One of the huge hurdles to passing the Equality Act is the concept of “religious freedom.” Religion freedom is not a new term. It has been used throughout our history to justify anti-LGBT actions. But it has also been used to discriminate against other groups as well, including to keep interracial couples from marrying and to justify Jim Crow laws.
Now the term is being used to allow those in bakery shops, hotels, senior housing complexes, shelters run by religious organizations, and others from granting LGBTQ people equal access. Simply put: the Equality Act puts LGBT people on a par with those that cannot be discriminated against for race, religion, creed, or national origin. It will help LGBT people to live their lives without fear of discrimination. Of course discrimination will always exist, but these protections will be a huge step in improving the lives of millions of Americans who deserve equal treatment and respect.
Moving from national politics to the local political arena, it has been said that Brian Sims is not expected to run for re-election for State Rep. At present there are two people from the LGBT community that have expressed interest in the seat, trans activist Deja Lynn Alvarez and Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President of the National Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. They are two outstanding candidates who would serve our community well. There are others who are allies of our community also eyeing the seat. This has the possibility of becoming a crowded field and a race to watch in the next election.
Yes, even though we’ve just gotten through one election, we already need to be paying attention to the next one. We need to make sure our community’s voice is continually heard by both elected officials and candidates. Our issues always matter. We can’t let anyone forget that.