The Daily News
For several years I have taken to this page to commemorate LGBTQ Pride Month. When I first started it was still just called Gay Pride Month. I write this year with good and not so good news. Happily, I can say that in spite of all the impediments the LGBTQ community continues to push forward and continues to achieve.
I start with the not so good that continues to be the POTUS. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump vowed “he would be different — the first Republican president to embrace LGBTQ people.” He held up a Pride flag at a campaign event. He mentioned up specifically in his speech accepting the Republican nomination. He even tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBTQ community! I will fight for you...”
Yet, from day one of his presidency it has been a different story. One of his first acts as president was to remove any reference to LGBTQ people from the federal government websites. Since that time the Human Rights Campaign lists more than three dozen egregious actions taken against the LGBTQ community by this administration. The latest came this month when during the midst of this global pandemic the administration moved forward to remove healthcare protections for transgender people. It has been a full-on attack on LGBTQ people during the Trump administration and it is full-on attack by the LGBTQ community see that these are his last six months in office.
Now, let us turn to the good news and it is huge. June 15, 2020, the SCOTUS issued a 6-4 ruling the people cannot be fired based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This was an major win for the LGBTQ community as the SCOTUS did what the federal government and 29 states (including Pennsylvania) have not done for more than 40 years! After the SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2013 the mantra for the LGBTQ community became, “get married on Saturday and fired on Monday.” That is to say that any sign that we were non-hetero-normative was a basis for us to lose our jobs. I would add that heterosexual people faced this scrutiny as well. This ruling is particularly impactful for transgender as more than one in four have lost a job to bias (more than three-fourths have experienced workplace discrimination). I would also add, that workforce bias costs U.S. employers $64 million annually and more than 2 million professionals and managers leave workplaces annually due to bias, according to the HRC.
While the SCOTUS ruling was most welcome, it did not solve everything. The ruling only covers business of 15 or more employees. Housing discrimination is still permissible (and sought by this administration) and it does not address public accommodations which means I can still be denied entry into any public building and private business. As such, there is still a tremendous need for the U.S. Senate to pass The Equality Act which would cover more business and housing among other things. Given the refusal of the current Senate majority to even consider the bill, our job is to work even harder to have a Democrat majority come January.
As I wrote earlier, Pennsylvania is one of 29 states that does not provide workplace protections for the LGBTQ community. State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman has long refused to bring The Fairness Act to a floor vote where it would surely pass with broad bipartisan support. In the state House of Representatives the bill is no longer be held up by longtime opponent, Daryl Metcalfe, but by Rep. Garth Everett, chair of the State Government Committee. According to Garth, “We have many other issues in state government to deal with and we’ll have to see where this ranks with those other issues.” Human rights must always rank at the top of any agenda. The Fairness Act would easily pass in both houses of the state legislature if there were floor votes. A vote would also serve to identify the true homophobes in the state legislature.
In Huntingdon, the borough council had the fortitude last December to pass the Non-Discrimination Ordinance. The local ordinance covers workforce discrimination in businesses with four or more employees and addresses discrimination in housing and public accommodation. The ordinance establishes a local Human Rights Commission to address complaints locally. However, the borough has inexplicably delayed the implementation of this ordinance. Borough manager Chris Stevens has refused to give any update on the implementation status despite many entreaties over the past two months. I would add that adoption of federal and state measures would not necessarily invalidate our local ordinance. We would, I suspect, still be able to deal with complaints locally which is a good first step in the process.
While our county commissioners are precluded from adopting a non-discrimination ordinance to cover the entire county, they still could pass an ordinance banning discrimination in county employment as well as with any vendors doing business with the county. It is past time for them to do this.
We salute all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 51 years to advance human rights for the LGBTQ community. This includes those involved in the Stonewall uprising, those who have organized national marches in Washington, D.C., beginning with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979; those who would not let the federal government ignore the AIDS crisis including the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP; Edie Windsor who led the fight for marriage equality; Gerald Bostock, Aimee Stephens, and Donald Varda who were the plaintiffs who sued for workplace equality; INTERPRIDE and all of the many Pride coordinators throughout the world; and, this list could go on and on. Every LGTBQ person who lives openly is a warrior.
The LGBTQ community does proudly recognize all of the advancements in our civil rights that have been achieved locally, statewide and nationally over the last 51 years since the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. At the same time there is no time to rest as there is still quite a distance to travel for our full equality. We will continue to fight for our rights and we will achieve them. We thank those of you who support us. For our detractors we say, “get out of our way because we are coming through.”
Pride 2020: Exist. Persist. Resist.
D. Anthony Bullett