While 2013 saw some amazing advances for LGBT rights, we’re hoping 2014 can be even better. Here are just some of the important LGBT rights victories we’ll be looking for in the new year.
1. Stopping Anti-LGBT Employment Discrimination
We scored a small victory this year when for the first time in years the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed the US Senate in a bipartisan vote.
ENDA would make it illegal to make employment decisions, like hiring, firing or even promoting, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill carries broad exemptions for religious institutions and, in some cases, small businesses. Its purpose is to remedy the fact that in a majority of states it is still legal under state law to fire someone for being trans, and in a number states sexual orientation workplace discrimination is still also legal.
If the bill can be brought before the United States House, it is widely believed it has the chance for a significant vote — the amount of support for the bill isn’t yet obvious but we do know that there are a number of moderate Republicans who, like their voting base, find the bill to be a matter of basic civil rights.
Unfortunately, House Speaker John Bohner opposes the bill and has not yet indicated whether he will allow the bill to come for a floor vote. Securing a vote on ENDA will be vital work in 2014 to take America one step closer to fairness in the workplace.
2. Overturning DOMA Section 2
In 2013, we saw the fall of DOMA Section 3, the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Did you know that part of DOMA is still in force, though?
In essence, DOMA Section 2 prevents one state from being forced to recognize a same-sex marriage that was conducted in another state. This might sound like a good idea for preserving state autonomy. However, in reality it means that when same-sex couples travel from one state to another they can go from being married, to having no legal recognition at all, to being married again. Obviously, this carries a number of problems, not least of which centers around emergency care should one spouse fall ill.
There are a couple of ongoing lawsuits that tackle DOMA Section 2, but action from Congress would be preferable. The federal Respect for Marriage Act could repeal DOMA Section 2, and so laying the groundwork for a repeal will be important during 2014.
3. Making LGBT Rights a Visible Issue During the Winter Olympics
Russia is set to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi between the February 6-23, 2014. Russia has become notorious for its human rights crackdown, and in particular its “gay propaganda” law that makes it illegal to promote LGBT rights in the public square.
The IOC has said it is confident that the games will not pose a risk to LGB athletes, even though Russian authorities have made it quite clear the ban will still be in place during the Winter Olympics.
President Obama won’t be attending the games and is instead sending a delegation headed by three openly gay athletes, something that has been seen as a subtle protest. Meanwhile, the IOC itself has said that any athletes making political statements will face sanction. All the same, some are planning to protest.
A key moment in 2014 will be using the Olympics as a vehicle to draw attention to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law and, if at all possible, trying to affect lasting change.
4. Expanding LGBT Student Rights
This year California made history by passing a law to ensure that trans students are allowed the dignity they deserve and the right to use the facilities that align with their stated gender and not their biological sex. An effort is now underway to ensure that other states adopt similar laws.
In a broader sense, the federal Student Non Discrimination Act may also feature in 2014. The bill would reinforce that it is illegal to deny all students their constitutional rights and would set out specific frameworks and anti-bullying policies, plugging gaps in state level policies that continue to leave LGBT kids vulnerable. An amended version might also specifically tackle the issue of cyberbullying.
5. Preventing Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Going into Force
Uganda’s parliament recently passed what President Obama has called the “odious” anti-homosexuality bill. While the full text of the bill still hasn’t been released, we know that the bill doesn’t contain the “kill the gays” provision that made it world infamous. Nevertheless, the bill would imprison so-called “repeat offenders,” potentially for a life term. It would also mandate prison for those who know a gay person and fail to inform the authorities.
While Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni doesn’t technically have veto power, he does have the authority to return the bill to parliament indefinitely and Museveni has indicated that he won’t sign the bill without studying it carefully. There’s nothing to study though; the bill is terrible. If we can defeat this bill in the next month it would be a massive win to kick off the new year. You can read more about the law and sign our Care2 action against the bill here.
It is worth mentioning that Nigeria looks set to pass a similar “jail the gays” bill, while a number of countries in North Africa continue to pursue greater criminalization of LGBT people. This will also be a cause for concern — but also a chance for positive action too.
6. Continuing Our Marriage Equality Victories
In 2014, we will see a lot of movement toward more states legalizing marriage equality. Ohio, for instance, is already gearing up to repeal its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage via a ballot initiative, an effort that at the time of writing seems to have a fair chance of succeeding.
Other states will be tougher to win over, but with Utah currently allowing same-sex marriages and the massive gains we saw in 2013, marriage equality advocates are hoping to continue that momentum and bring equality to many more parts of the United States.
So to all here’s wishing you a Happy New Year, and another 12 months of LGBT rights successes!
Photo credit: Thinkstock.
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