A pivotal moment for LGBT equality
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A bipartisan group of 116 lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month signed a letter calling for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the most-sweeping, federal lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation ever considered.  The Equality Act, introduced in Congress last year, would amend the current Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes in all areas of federal civil rights law. 

A realistic reading of the situation shows that this legislation is highly unlikely to see the light of day in 2016. Therein lies the paradox for the LGBT movement on many important areas of equality at the federal, state and local levels.

The LGBT movement finds itself at a crossroads.  It’s a time when great strides, such as the introduction of sweeping civil rights legislation in Congress, are taking place, against vehement push back.  LGBT Americans live in a world where last year’s monumental Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges granted same-sex couples, from the reddest red to the bluest blue states, the right to equal marriage.   Antithetically, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees lack workplace protections and still face the threat of being fired from their jobs in 28 states for no other reason than because of who they are or the person they love.  

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While our community celebrates a number of advancements, work remains and the 2016 election is a critical moment for the LGBT movement. The future challenges for the LGBT movement for equal rights are many, ranging from enacting state and federal workplace equal protection laws, advancing transgender equality, eliminating reparative therapy, defeating so-called “religious exemption statutes”, thwarting bullying, promoting elder quality of life and providing the LGBT community’s place at the table.

The direction hinges on the outcome of this year’s election.  Ed Rendell, Chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, said it best, “The stakes couldn’t be higher this election season for LGBT equality.”  He’s right, which is why the annual Equality Forum, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights summit, will provide the LGBT community a prominent, national voice during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. 

Over 20 national leaders and organizations will come together at Equality Forum 2016 to hold groundbreaking discussions on the state and future of the LGBT movement.  During the Democratic Convention, elected officials, newsmakers and scholars and experts will take a deep dive into the future of our movement by shining a spotlight on the legislative, legal and culture challenges facing LGBT people.  These panels are designed to examine the LGBT movement through the lens of the 2016 presidential election, and will bring together history makers, legal scholars and political leaders for forward-leaning discussions.

The reality in 2016 for the LGBT community is one where historic advancements are quickly met with push back.  It’s a time when Supreme Court marriage decisions give birth to county clerks who defy U.S. federal court orders requiring the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  It’s a tipping point in our movement’s march towards equal rights where increased awareness of transgender individuals has bent the arc of the moral universe towards greater acceptance, but at the same time confronts ignorance which threatens to unravel advancements made for the safety and security of trans people. 

When it comes to equality for LGBT Americans, we need only to look back to 2008 to see how big of a difference one election can make.  Former PA Governor Ed Rendell is right, the stakes for LGBT Americans this election season couldn’t be higher.


Lazin is the executive director of Equality Forum, the nation’s premier lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights summit, which will be holding events during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.