The right for gay people to live and pursue happiness freely in the United States has new adversaries. So-called religious freedom laws, bathroom bills, and deep GOP support for child abuse in the form of “conversion therapy” attempt to criminalize and de-humanize us. However, with the right policies and people in place, our local city governments have the power to become staunch allies for LGBTQ residents, shielding us from discrimination and unnecessary harm. By taking steps such as providing services for the LGBTQ elderly, passing workplace non-discrimination ordinances, and appointing openly gay local leaders, our cities can become true havens for our community.
To assess the extent to which American cities protect our community, the Human Rights Campaign devised a survey called the Municipal Equality Index (MEI). This tool evaluates how well cities across the nation support their LGBTQ communities in five categories: non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and relationship with the LGBTQ community. Cities are scored from 0-100.
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court handed down the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges which guaranteed the right of all same sex couples in the nation to marry. While many viewed this as the victorious culmination of a movement which began on Christopher Street nearly fifty years ago, others criticized the single-mindedness with which our community pursed this one goal: gay marriage. Some believed that funneling our resources towards the right to marry came at the expense of other, more pressing concerns in our community such as equal protection for transgender people, or promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. Gay political powerhouses like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) became targets for those who believed that the capital-G Gay civil rights movement had diluted what was once a vibrant queer identity in exchange for a more white-washed and palatable one, often leaving our most vulnerable behind. Even Bernie Sanders once labeled the HRC as “establishment.” It was as if white, middle class gay men had transformed our movement from “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” to “We’re just like everyone else.”
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Down here in New Orleans, as memories from the dark days of Hurricane Katrina recede with increasing velocity into the past, the city barrels toward its new normal. (more…)