By Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05)
In 2013, I had the privilege of standing on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as the High Court announced its decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for a marriage equality decision just a few years later.
This year, one of the few bright spots came in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers could not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity under federal law. These historic moments represent major advancements our country has made toward equality for the LGBTQ community.
As we reflect and celebrate the progress we’ve made, we still have unfinished work to ensure equality for all LGBTQ Americans. Right now, there are still countless efforts to chip away at existing LGBTQ-inclusive policies.
I’ve been hearing growing concerns from my constituents protecting the progress we’ve made toward equality. This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of faith leaders, community leaders and LGBTQ Michiganders who shared with me reasons that we need to pass LGBTQ-inclusive protections at the federal level. They shared with me their stories of their LGBTQ friends and community members who have been subject to discrimination in the workplace and in housing based on their sexual orientation. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year, I believe Congress must act to make sure that discrimination against LGBTQ Americans is banned.
At the highest levels of government, LGBTQ rights are under attack. The Trump administration has instituted a ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the U.S. military. No one who wants to serve our country should be discouraged to do so just because of their gender. This policy is purely discriminatory, not based in military strategy and makes the U.S. less safe.
The Trump administration has also continued to eliminate protections for the LGBTQ community, including recent actions to exclude trans people from discrimination protections in health care settings and homeless shelters. In the midst of a global pandemic, the administration has actively endangered the health and well-being of our trans community members.
On top of these attacks on protections, we must be realistic about the gaps in law that leave LGBTQ Americans vulnerable. Despite June’s Supreme Court ruling, LGBTQ Americans still are not protected federally from discrimination in housing; in public spaces like restaurants, businesses, parks and other aspects of daily life. In my home state of Michigan, like 29 other states, we lack explicit state-level nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. We need to update our laws to increase protections for LGBTQ Americans.
Congress must pass legislation to protect all LGBTQ Americans, and it’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the Equality Act – which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 – with support of both Democrats and Republicans. This landmark legislation would ensure that LGBTQ Americans are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service. This bipartisan legislation has been sitting in the Senate for over a year, it is crucial the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell take action to protect LGBTQ Americans.
Finally, the novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted existing inequality within our communities. As we work to solve the health crisis and the economic crisis, we must ensure that our LGBTQ friends and neighbors are not still able to be fired from their job, evicted from their home or denied a loan simply for being LGBTQ. Discrimination, in any form, is wrong. We cannot go backward and accept discrimination against anyone.
It is clear that we have made significant progress toward equality for the LGBTQ community, but we still must do more. We must continue to vote for elected representatives who share our values of equality for the LGBTQ community. This will allow Congress to pass legislation to ensure that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love. This year when you vote, consider what is on the line for the people we love and care about in our community.
Democrat Dan Kildee is a Flint native and has been the U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 5th Congressional District since 2013. Learn more about Kildee online at dankildee.house.gov.