Recent Attacks on LGBTQ Rights | April-June 2018  

April-May-June 2018

Recent Attacks on LGBTQ Rights (graphic from USA News) by Al Usack

In the ten years or so before the present administration came into power, LGBTQ (from here on I will simply say “gay”) rights made phenomenal gains. Perhaps the biggest advance was in politics from a period of using gays as the fall people in order to get votes to promoting gay rights to get votes, especially in northern and western states. Many states passed laws providing equal rights to gays including marriage with the culmination of the Supreme Court decision making gay marriages legal throughout the country. And, a clear majority of Americans supported the decision.

click here for more However, there have been naysayers, especially in the Southern states and many states have attempted to find ways to limit the gains made for equal rights. For example, even in the 2016 election cycle, the Republican party platform advocated the passage of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). This act says that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Also, efforts have shifted to attempts to limit rights by claiming that providing rights to gays was limiting the rights of those who had issues (mostly religious) with providing services to gay people. Added to this was the issue of whether transgender folks could use the bathroom of their choice or not. Also, there is the precedent of the Hobby Lobby case which ruled that organizations could seek religious exemption from the contraception-coverage benefit of the Affordable Care Act for their employees. President Trump appointee, Judge Gorsuch, was instrumental in moving this issue to the Supreme Court. And, it should be noted that equal employment or housing rights legislation for gays has never been passed by congress.

What is really happening under the Trump administration? First and foremost is the so-called cake case the Supreme Court is presently hearing. The decision on this case should be announced in June. It is based on whether a cake baker in Colorado had the right to refuse to bake a cake for a homosexual couple because of his religious objection to gay folks. If the Supreme Court decides that he has that right it means that religious rights are more important than gay rights and it is perfectly ok to discriminate against people because of your religious views. This will have far reaching impacts. Already, Attorney General Sessions has issued a directive to Federal agencies to “do as much as possible to accommodate those who say their religious freedoms are being violated.” For example, it would allow medical professionals to refuse to treat gay patients, employers to fire gay folks, hotels to refuse gays, etc.etc. Some of the States are already passing illiberal laws regarding gay rights based on religious objection.

And, it gets no better in that the new administration will be filling more than 120 Federal Court vacancies. Many of the positions were not filled in the last year of the Obama administration because congress refused to approve his nominations. Many of the judges being nominated now have been approved by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The ADF is a Christian-right organization founded 24 years ago by Alan Sears who once said “the homosexual agenda threatens religious freedom.” Needless to say, nearly all of the nominations have a very conservative agenda and a number of them have been active in deciding against gay rights. And another requirement is that they are young so these appointments will impact judicial decisions for many years.

Other areas of concern are cuts in the national AIDs assistance program and the continued discrimination against transgender people, especially at the State and Local levels.

What can you do to help the gay community retain and expand equal rights? The Unitarian Universalist Association has been a leading force in the civil rights front. They were especially important in attaining acceptance of gay marriage and other rights that have been gained at the State and National level. For example, Ed (Kobee) and myself and others from UU churches in Maryland and the Washington Baltimore area with the help of a matching grant from UUA founded an organization called the Religious Coalition for LGBT Rights. This organization working with the Maryland political organization helped to make Maryland the first state where the legislature passed a gay marriage bill.

How can you help in this battle for equal rights for gay people? First, it is always helpful if our friends are knowledgeable about what it means to be gay in this country and what actions are needed to ensure equal rights. Thanks to Joan Butcher and AJ Wolff we just had a program on updating our Welcoming Congregation status. If you were unable to attend, I’m sure that any of the gay people in the MUUF would be happy to answer any questions you might have. Also, we had a very successful Booth at the Manatee Gay Pride Festival. And there are a number of major organizations such as ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The National LGBTQ Task force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality Florida, and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund that can always use your financial contributions.

Unfortunately, the actions affecting gay people, women, and minorities by the administration are not given very extensive TV press coverage because of their fixation on Trump tweets and statements.

Therefore, in order to get information on what is happening you need to follow the written word, mainly from the liberal press. Even in the last election cycle, actual issues were hardly discussed as the press emphasized personalities and sensational news rather than such mundane things as party platforms and candidates stands on issues. In a separate folder, I have included some items on gay issues that you may find of interest.