Opinion | Civil Rights

LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

For LGBTQ voters, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections present a real opportunity to make history and reshape the future of this country. 

In the wake of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and with anti-LGBTQ policies once again rearing up around the country, we have more at stake this year than in recent memory. Hanging in the balance of this November's election - from the top of the ticket on down - are the very lives of LGBTQ people in the United States; effectively whether we will be protected by the rule of law and afforded with the basic dignity and humanity we deserve. 

The news of Ginsburg's passing only increases the stakes, with President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) determined to replace her - a champion of LGBTQ equality - by rushing through the confirmation of an anti-equality justice before the American people can weigh in. Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that established marriage equality, was a 5-4 decision. Lawrence v. Texas, which serves as the basis of many crucial decisions on LGBTQ equality, was a 5-4 decision. The future of these core and fundamental protections hangs in the balance of this election.

To truly safeguard the rights and welfare of our community and countless others, we must pull the emergency brake on Trump and Vice President Mike Pence - to stop their continuous and systematic roll back of LGBTQ rights and protections and to stop Trump's appointment of another anti-equality justice. Rather, we must work to help select a fair-minded equality champion to replace Ginsburg - in accordance with her dying wish.

The Trump administration's push to reverse course on our LGBTQ progress in the Supreme Court is just the start. During his first week in office, Trump stripped LGBTQ content from the White House and State Department websites.The Trump Justice Department and Department of Education - led by Betsy DeVos - eliminated key guidance for schools about their obligations to protect transgender students. In his first year in office, Trump reinstated a ban on qualified transgender people serving in the military, placing at risk more than 15,000 transgender military personnel serving our country in uniform. And this was only the beginning. 

Apart from refusing to condemn human rights violations against LGBTQ people across the world, this administrations is also in court trying to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. And they have fought to limit LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections under the law in the midst of a pandemic - a move thwarted thanks to a lawsuit by the Human Rights Campaign, where I serve as president. The administration even issued a threat to veto the Equality Act, which would provide basic nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, credit, education, jury service, public services and spaces and federally funded programs.

It is crucial that LGBTQ voters turn out this year. As former mayor of Indiana and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and many others have already warned: make no mistake, LGBTQ rights are on the ballot this year, and unless we show up to support candidates who will be our champions in Congress, we will lose decades of hard-fought progress.

In this election cycle, anti-equality groups even launched attack ads against transgender children. Yes, they can always go lower than you expect, and in this case use an out-dated political playbook to get there. However, more now than ever, 57 million LGBTQ and allied voters  - people who value truth and opportunity - don't fall for these types of campaigns and won't support anti-equality politicians at the ballot box.

The choice is clear this fall. Pro-equality candidates at every level of the ballot will do the hard work to fight for and defend LGBTQ people, and secure the future of the court on the issue of equality, while their opponents have and would continue to roll back fundamental rights. We are on the precipice of enshrining equality into law. 

We don't have a moment to lose, and there is no reason to wait in making your voice heard. We are facing a watershed moment in America - a pivotal point in the history of this country and a crucial turning point for LGBTQ rights. It's within our reach. We have to work hard, meet this moment and make our voices heard by Nov. 3. 

Alphonso David is the president of the Human Rights Campaign. Follow him on Twitter @alphonsodavid. 

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