Over 150 Officials Send Congress a New Year’s Wish List

A group of 152 elected officials have signed an open letter to the incoming Congress asking that it “remedy the wrongs” done to LGBT people in the past few years.

Facilitated by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and its International LGBTQ Leaders Conference, the letter is signed by a number of federal and state lawmakers, governors, city officials and school board members. Those names include: James Aguilar, San Leandro Unified School Board Trustee (CA); Sara Burlingame, Wyoming State Representative; Adam Ebbin, Virginia State Senator and many more.

Passing the Equality Act

The letter calls for a number of key items for the new Congress to work on, and these include passing the Equality Act.

Despite the Obama administration advancing LGBT civil rights by interpreting federal Civil Rights Act protections as including sexual orientation and gender identity protections, there is currently no explicit statute at the federal level that spells out these protections. As such, politicians can walk back those protections, as we’ve seen under the Trump administration.

While federal agencies, the government and the courts continue to wrangle over these protections, ordinary LGBTQ Americans are left vulnerable to discrimination in housing, the employment sector, public accommodations and in our schools, which impacts their opportunities at almost every level of life.

Some states do have some level of LGBTQ -inclusive protections, but the majority do not have fully-inclusive laws. The Equality Act could change that by preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also ensure that where these do occur, proper records are kept and improvements are made. Institutions, for example public schools, that fail to comply with this statute could then be held accountable. They could even see their continued funding tied to making improvements to comply with the law.

Quite simply, these are rights that every American deserves under the law, and it is past time Congress acted on the Equality Act.

Addressing HIV Rates

The second area the signatories want action on is reducing the transmission and acquisition of HIV/AIDS. The letter notes that, despite federal institutions putting a great deal of emphasis on fighting HIV/AIDS, there remains some significant lapses. For example, while overall HIV acquisition rates are going down, some demographics, such as gay men belonging to ethnic minorities, are seeing their rates fail to fall and in some cases increase.

The signatories demand that Congress get ahead of this problem by studying and fixing the issues, such as lower uptake of health care coverage to more systemic problems, like differences in incomes, that could be leading to this over-representation in HIV rates.

The letter also asks that Congress more aggressively pursue the global goal of “Getting to Zero” and looks at ways that it can promote that, for example through public health campaigns about PrEP, which can prevent HIV acquisition.

Protecting Trans Rights

The third category on the wishlist is protecting transgender people.

The Trump administration has aggressively walked back Obama-era policies, from Trump’s blatantly unconstitutional ban on transgender troops to the administration’s reported attempts to write into statute that biological sex is the only recognized identifier.

This unconstitutional, and not to mention unscientific, attack cannot be allowed to continue, so it is paramount that the 116th Congress opposes every and all attempts at singling out trans Americans and works on legislation like the Equality Act to safeguard their rights.

Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers

Lastly, the letter highlights one other policy area that is sorely in need of attention: How the US interacts with LGBT rights globally and more precisely how it advocates for the rights of asylum seekers.

The Trump administration is planning to tighten asylum rules, which it claims is a bid to ensure that only the people who need it most are getting help. In reality, this will define away a number of groups’ eligibility for asylum, and among them is likely to be LGBT people. LGBT people worldwide have found it notoriously difficult to find asylum, because it is difficult to prove one’s identity and that this is the basis for persecution. This is despite LGBT people fleeing countries like Syria, where they face threats of violence, so-called corrective rape, and death.

Furthermore, the letter notes that LGBTQ people from Central America who are already living in the United States may suffer disproportionately under the proposed changes to the asylum rules. Waiting for an asylum claim to be processed is an incredibly dangerous time for LGBTQ people, as they can face significant violence and persecution in detention facilities, something that also needs to change.

In addition, the letter calls on Congress to make LGBTQ Rights “a cornerstone of our foreign policy” at the United Nations, where the United States has now several times refused to sign on to LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination agreements.

“LGBTQ political power is growing thanks to the rainbow wave of LGBTQ people who won elected office in November — and this letter is the first sign of us wielding that new power,” Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker told The Hill. The so-called “Rainbow Wave” of officials elected at the November midterms was unprecedented, and now it is demanding that the Democratically-controlled House in particular do what it can to safeguard LGBT rights.

Action to give LGBTQI Americans basic civil rights is long overdue, and now the Rainbow Wave is ensuring the communities’ voice is heard.

Take Action

Join over 13,000 Care2 members and sign and share the Human Rights Campaign petition supporting passage of the Equality Act!

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

37 comments

Maria P
Mia P4 months ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Thomas M
Thomas M5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M5 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M5 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD5 months ago

tyfs

SEND
Sophie A
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks for posting

SEND
Emma L
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you

SEND
Anna R
Anna R6 months ago

thank you for sharing

SEND
Olivia M
Past Member 6 months ago

tyfs

SEND
Joan E
Joan E6 months ago

Signed.

SEND