Republicans and Democrats Should Unite to Protect LGBTQ Americans | LGBTQ

Many Americans have long fought to ensure that all of their compatriots, regardless of race, religion, sex or any other inherent characteristic, have the right to struggle and prosper without discrimination. In almost 250 years of our country’s existence, we have come a long way towards this goal, but the fight is far from over.

Today, many LGBTQ Americans across the country still face discrimination in many areas, such as health care, housing, and employment, because of who they are and / or who they love. . Current federal laws do not provide comprehensive protections against discrimination for LGBTQ Americans, and only 21 states do so through state laws. As a Republican and transgender American, I want all LGBTQ Americans to enjoy all the rights and protections afforded to other Americans, regardless of what part of the country they choose to live.

To achieve this goal, we need protections for LGBTQ Americans, which clearly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity from being enshrined in federal law. Such protections can only be adopted at the federal level with bipartite support. While Republicans and Democrats unite to protect LGBTQ rights may seem unlikely, especially in today’s highly polarized political environment, it is not impossible – or unprecedented.

In 1978, when the Briggs Initiative (California Proposition 6) sought to ban gays and lesbians from working in California schools through a referendum, prominent Democrats and Republicans joined forces to defeat it. Harvey Milk, recently elected Democratic City Supervisor of San Francisco and LGBTQ activist, with the backing of other prominent Democratic activists and officials, quickly launched a popular and fierce campaign to derail the initiative, but without the support. of the Republicans, victory seemed elusive.

As referendum day approached, an unlikely force has entered the fight: former California governor and rising Tory superstar Ronald Reagan. At the time, Reagan was already working to win the GOP presidential nomination in the upcoming 1980 election, and he had a lot to lose by joining any “fight for gays.” However, he realized that removing LGBT teachers from Golden State schools would not only harm the LGBTQ community and the education system, but also society in general, and decided to take a courageous stand. He wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Tribune urging voters – mostly Republicans – to say no to the Briggs initiative.

Days later, thanks to Milk’s hard work and the support of a prominent Republican like Reagan, the anti-LGBTQ initiative was defeated. Reagan chose to help people who would probably never vote for him because he believed that uplifting other Americans, whoever they were, was the right thing – the Republican thing – to do.

At the time, Republicans and Democrats came together to prevent LGBTQ Americans in California from further discrimination. Today we need them to come together again to help end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans for good. We need new Reagans in our Senate to step forward and help uplift LGBTQ Americans so that people like me can have equal protection under our country’s civil rights laws.

Currently, for example, there is no federal law preventing health care professionals from denying care to LGBTQ people based on who we are or who we love. Additionally, many of us still face significant barriers when trying to access public education, life insurance, nursing homes, car loans, mortgages, housing. rentals, jobs and promotions. In states without any LGBTQ nondiscrimination measures, LGBTQ people still walk on eggshells, knowing that barbers, hairdressers, letter carriers, mechanics, grocery store tellers, bank tellers, plumbers and even government workers may deny them services outright on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

After my transition, I wondered if my regular doctors would continue to keep me or my children as patients. I wondered if I would be able to hire tradespeople to do the necessary repairs in our family home. And a few times we’ve had tradespeople who didn’t come back after an estimate because they were ‘too busy’ – although they had no problem accepting new jobs in non-LGBTQ households that they did. we knew.

Passed by a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives In February 2021, the Equality Act is a comprehensive federal bill that seeks to protect LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in all areas of their daily life. life – including housing, public spaces, and access to federally funded programs and services. Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering the bill for a vote, and while nearly all Democratic senators support the equality law, more Republican support is needed to get it past the Senate filibuster threshold of 60. voice.

As an LGBTQ American, I have a vested interest in a comprehensive civil rights bill such as the passage of the Equality Act. However, as a person of conservative faith, I also understand the concerns about the effect such a bill might have on religious freedoms. I believe it is not in our nation’s best interests to force religious organizations to choose between following their beliefs or closing their doors. Having said that, I know that we as a nation can find a practical and moral way for such freedoms to coexist with laws such as the proposed equality law. It is imperative that we find a way to codify federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination measures with bipartisan support, because without them many Americans like me cannot live their lives freely and safely in every state.

Fortunately, my experiences as an LGBTQ person in the United States have been better than those of many other LGBTQ people living across America – for the sheer reason of geography. I live in New Jersey, a state that has comprehensive protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people. It’s fine for me as long as I don’t leave my home country. But once I do leave and head west to Pennsylvania and beyond, I don’t have all the same rights and freedoms as non-LGBT Americans in those states. Crossing the border to another state, for example, may mean that I will have to wonder if a waiter or store clerk would deny me a service because of my gender identity.

In 29 states in the United States, LGBTQ people must live every day without any legal protection for their sexual orientation and gender identity – and this is unacceptable. Our rights should not and cannot remain dependent on where we are in America. We are all Americans and we should all be treated the same all over our country. Such a tie will need bipartisan support and I think New Jersey, like California did a long time ago, can show us the way.

New Jersey’s existing LGBTQ protections were enacted with votes from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and they were enacted by governors on both sides. One of the proudest moments of my life came in 2017, when Republican State Governor Chris Christie signed not one, but two bills in one day to protect transgender people in New York. Jersey. I and many other LGBTQ people reached out to him to explain how these bills would actually improve our lives, and Governor Christie listened. Now we need Republicans in the Senate to listen to us as well and help us extend these protections across America.

Some Republican elected officials are trying to suppress the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ Americans. But I don’t believe they represent our party. I have been a long-time Republican and have personally never met a Republican who wants our party to be known as the Party of Discrimination. So, Republicans in the Senate who, like Reagan, truly believe all Americans deserve freedom and equality should step up and show what our party really stands for.

As the 18th century ‘father of conservatism’ Edmund Burke put it, ‘whenever a separation is made between freedom and justice, none, in my opinion, is certain’. Let’s close the remaining separation between freedom and justice for LGBTQ Americans across our country by passing the Equality Act. It will save lives, build stronger citizenship, and help millions of our fellow Americans achieve their American dream.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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