S. E. Williams
As Pride Month comes to a close I believe it is important to take a moment to acknowledge one of the monumental and continuing struggles that persists in America– the LGBTQ+ community’s fight for the same, long overdue protections of civil rights and full promise of this nation’s democracy that is their birthright.
It is a similar quest for uncompromised rights that in many ways, members of the indigenous, Black, brown and other underserved communities continue to pursue despite legislative and other progress. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, however, are yet to attain even these basic protections.
This month, Riverside’s Congressional Representative Mark Takano (D-39) reintroduced The Equality Act. If passed, it will correct the omission of this group from the 1964 Civil Rights Act by prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system.
Most specific and important to members of the LGBTQ+ community is the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.
The bill would also expand the definition of public accommodations to “include places or establishments that provide exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; goods, services, or programs; and transportation services.”
It would also empower the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Finally, it would prohibit individuals from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.
This legislation would be a giant step toward fairness. The reality is however, as long as Republicans hold sway over the House of Representatives (as they do today) or the US Senate or the presidency, the Equality Act will remain a dream deferred.
While the legislation is certain to stall, acts of hate and prejudice against members of this community persists and in many ways is worsening.
In the five year period between 2015 and 2021, there were more than 1700 reported incidents of hate crimes perpetrated against members of the LGBTQ+ community in this state alone. Also, as noted in recent data analysis by Mapping Black California, CA Hate Crimes, Prosecutions and Convictions 2016-2021, the data confirms that Gender/Sexual Orientation related crimes have been on the rise since 2015.
There is little question the overheated and biased rhetoric being spewed across the country by small minded and biased individuals is creating a climate more conducive to hate against members of this community. This includes the banning or consideration of banning no less than 25 books featuring LGBTQ+ characters from school libraries as reported last September by the Advocate.
Often, those who hold such prejudice stand on the bible as justification, the same bible and level of thinking once used to justify the enslavement of Black folks.
If we are truly committed to building a nation that honors and respects everyone it is important that others continue adding their voices to the cause of this community. Advocacy doesn’t always require giant acts of courage. It can be something as simple as stating your disagreement when someone makes a homophobic comment or letting our school district know you don’t agree with its decision to not teach from books that include stories about LGBTQ+ individuals.
Our voices of support for this community must become louder that the voices advocating against it.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.