If 2014 was the year for marriage equality, what will be in store for 2015? More marriage news, no doubt. We’re still a bit of aways off from full marriage equality in all 50 states, so expect to see more advancements, and even a slight setback or two, as we continue our forward momentum on this particular issue.
As marriage continues its trend toward victory, I think it’s incumbent upon us to ask if we’re missing out on other items. I think we did in the previous 12 months, but if recent trends are any indication, we’re on the precipice of new and exciting priority shifts for our movement toward LGBT equality and justice — a movement that promises to take into account wider, more diverse perspectives and concerns.
In my last editorial of 2014 (goqnotes-launch2.newspackstaging.com/33193/), I listed several issues I think need more attention from movement leaders and community members. Let me elaborate on some of these wishes for this new year:
Protections from discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing: 2014 saw some advances on employment and other non-discrimination protections, all the way from local levels to the federal government. In at least one instance, though, we saw a setback. Late in the year, voters in Fayetteville, Ark., repealed a city council-passed civil rights ordinance protecting LGBT people in employment and housing. I expect we’ll see more movement toward local anti-discrimination measures this year. Even in Charlotte, there’s a movement afoot to expand local public accommodations and other protections. Other local leaders and those at a statewide level should look toward getting these key local protections passed by city and county governments across the state. Movement on similar protections at the state level seems impossibly unlikely given the legislature’s control by the Republicans. By working at a local level, we can effectively bypass a state-level GOP hold-up. If Charlotte is successful in its attempts, it’ll be the first municipality in the state to extend broader public protections for LGBT people and other municipalities should take the risks to follow suit.
LGBT youth: Despite having passed a statewide, LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law in 2008, North Carolina schools still remain a hostile environment for our LGBT young people. Teachers and administrators unaware of the law — or flippantly disregarding it — could be doing more to prevent anti-LGBT bullying. In some places, it remains difficult for students to organize gay-straight alliance or other LGBT student clubs on campus. Groups like Time Out Youth Center and the Triangle’s iNSIDEoUT are working to bring young people and their adult allies together. Let’s offer them more support so they can continue their work in creating safer, more equitable spaces for our future leaders.
Immigration reform: Some LGBT people remain either silent on or opposed to full-scale comprehensive immigration reform. “That’s not our issue,” you might hear some say. The great numbers of LGBT immigrants across this state might just disagree with them. Reform is particularly important for LGBT-identified immigrants from countries with anti-LGBT laws or where extreme anti-LGBT cultural prejudices put them at risk for rampant discrimination, serious injury or even death. It’s incumbent upon LGBT citizens to rise up in support of our LGBT siblings — whether they’re coming from Latin America, Africa, Russia or elsewhere — who seek to find a safer home here.
Racial profiling and racism: This issue is complex, crossing and intersecting with various movements and communities. But it’s one LGBT activists and advocacy organizations should place in their list of priorities. And we have to look toward change both outside and inside our own movement. LGBT people of color often find themselves facing discrimination from external forces, as well as inside their own community. Of all places, the LGBT community should be a safe and open space for all people, and we should be elevating the voices of LGBT people of color to lead this particular charge.
Economic justice: No person, including LGBT people, can live up to their fullest potential while battling against the weight of systemic poverty and classism. Low-income LGBT people face a range of obstacles, in education, in healthcare, in access to legal services, among others. As a movement, we should come out strongly and publicly in favor of an increase in the minimum wage. Each of us, including our LGBT siblings, deserve a living wage for their work.
A broader coalition: The issues listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. So many others deserve attention and resources, too. Issues like healthcare access and continued HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. If we begin building toward a more diverse, more inclusive coalition-style movement, I think we can begin to tackle these issues and more. It’s time we move past single-issue organizing and embrace the full reality and diversity of our own community. : :
What do you think?
Vote in our poll below and share your thoughts and comments. Vote and comment before Jan. 10 and we’ll feature the results and your thoughts in our Jan. 16 print edition.
One major issue that is probably most problematic in the Tirad area, and in many other parts of the country, that you have not addressed, is the use of “religious liberty” to deny LGBT folks equal protection under the law. We are seeing local, state and even federal laws which permit “conscience protection”, under the guise of “religious liberty”, to trump equality. Efforts must be made by our community to educate people of faith and religious leaders, and work towards changing them from opponents into supporters of justice.
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