As we enter Pride Month, and reflect on what has transpired in the last year, it’s clear that America took some big steps forward in our ongoing fight for equality.
Marriage equality is the law of the land. The federal government and U.S. military’s nondiscrimination policies now cover sexual orientation. Adoption by same-sex couples is finally legal in every state.
And in communities across the country, high schools are celebrating same-sex prom kings and queens. Transgender people have been living with greater openness and joy. There’s no denying that our country is moving forward.
Now we need to make sure America remains on the right side of history. We’re already seeing efforts to reverse the gains we’ve made in statehouses and courthouses across the country. Not to mention, there’s an election going on — and it would be all too easy for our next president to roll back much of the progress we have made.
Enter Donald Trump, who has pledged to do just that.
Trump says he sees himself as a “traditional guy” when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. What he means is that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who would favor rolling back LGBT rights and allowing individual states to discriminate against the LGBT community. A Trump court could even decide to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and bring marriage equality to an end.
Trump has said he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which would permit taxpayer-funded discrimination by those who cite religion as a reason to deny services to LGBT people nationwide.
He’s also pledged to repeal many of President Barack Obama’s executive orders immediately — which could include an order protecting LGBT employees in the federal government from discrimination.
And he recently released a list of 11 judges he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court, including a judge who equated same-sex relations to “bestiality,” “pedophilia” and “necrophilia.”
This matters, because there’s still a great deal of work left to do. We’ve all read the stories about small businesses — pizzerias, bakeries, florists — that discriminate against LGBT customers. A woman in Florida named Dana told me about the extreme discrimination she faced at her workplace. Eventually, it got so bad she quit. Today, she’s sleeping on the floor of her father’s apartment.
There are still clerks who refuse to do their jobs and issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples. And in far too many places in America, it remains legal for people to be fired solely on the basis of who they are or whom they love.
These inequities require legislative action at the federal level. Unsurprisingly, Congress has failed to do the right thing. Recently, the House of Representatives tried to undermine the President’s executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
So the stakes in this election are high. And even if we do prevail against the open bigotry of Donald Trump, we’ll still have our work cut out for us.
We need to pass the Equality Act, to ensure full federal equality for LGBT Americans.
We need to continue to fight discrimination at all levels of government and in all 50 states, as I did at the State Department, where we strengthened the department’s policies on anti-discrimination, worked with global advocates and other stakeholders in encouraging countries to decriminalize same-sex relationships and supported policies that extended benefits and additional protections to LGBT individuals.
And we need to tackle the intersectional pressures that make life even harder for many of our fellow human beings. In particular, acts of violence against transgender women of color continue to be reported at an alarming rate. It’s an emergency, and we need to treat it like one.
This issue is important to me. As secretary of state, I fought to make it possible for transgender Americans to have their true identities reflected on their passports.
And as president, I’ll fight for the rights of transgender people, because no one should be harmed or mistreated for being who they are.
Not long ago, I met a mom from New York named Jodie Patterson. Her youngest child, Penelope, was uncomfortable early on acting, dressing or being treated like a girl. “I don’t feel like a boy,” Penelope said. “I am a boy.”
So Jodie let him be who he knew he was. Today, he’s a happy little boy named Penel who loves soccer and karate. But Penel’s mom worries about his future. She dreads how he will handle puberty, and whether kids in school will be kind or cruel. And she wonders how he will find his place in the world, when there’s so much hostility toward people like him.
Kids like Penel are why all of us do what we do. They are why we fight for an America where every child is supported and loved for who they are, and nothing stands in the way of what they can become.