There is a common misconception that the LGBTQ community have equal rights under the laws of the United States. However, reality paints a different picture. While some states have passed laws extending certain protections and rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people have become more common, they are more the exception than the rule. In fact, it seems as if laws attempting to undermine and gut LGBT rights are much more prevalent. A recent survey of bills in state legislatures across the nation found 129 pieces of proposed legislation that threatened the civil rights of LGBT individuals.
Bills Threatening Already Limited LGBT Civil Rights
What kind of civil liberty-threatening bills are being presented to state lawmakers? Some, including a famous bill North Carolina, focus on restricting transgender people’s rights to access the bathroom they choose. Others, including one in Mississippi, permitted businesses and state employees to discriminate against LGBT individuals if they had a religious objection to their lifestyle. In fact, it seems that a large percentage of anti-LGBT legislation focuses on “preserving” religious expression.
Religious Expression & LGBT Rights
Religious expression – and the right to be free from government interference in that expression – have become increasingly popular in states where the LGBT community meets the most adversity. The argument supporting these “religious expression” bills is that the state should not force religious individuals to do something that is contrary to their personally-held beliefs. The truth is that these religious expression bills are simply a way to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. As some progress for LGBT equality is made in cities and courtrooms, those opposed to extending equal rights to the LGBT community have found a way to fight back.
Why are these religious expression bills so dangerous? Even if rights are extended to LGBT individuals, anyone claiming religious expression would be protected from consequences of discrimination. These laws essentially cut out a loophole for discrimination. Laws extending rights to LGBT individuals will have little effect if the people whose discriminatory conduct is targeted are not covered. In recent years, we’ve seen that faith and religion have been used to lawfully discriminate against LGBT individuals.
Politics Making State Lawmakers Hesitant to Support Anti-LGBT Bills
While there are more than 100 bills sitting in legislatures across the country, state lawmakers seem to be hesitant to support the measures. Why? Re-election season is around the corner, and many are afraid of losing votes for supporting bills that target LGBT rights. This is interesting, if only because it reflects that lawmakers discussing these bills know that they are inherently wrong.
Laws are supposed to help bring equality to all, not seize it from the hands of those who have the fewest protections. If lawmakers truly believed that these bills were in the best interest of society, they should not hesitate to support them. However, even the slightest inclination that a lawmaker may be in favor of targeting LGBT rights is widely feared for political reasons. As a result, many of these bills are simply being ignored.
LGBT Advocacy Efforts
Why is supporting anti-LGBT legislation suddenly dangerous for political lawmakers? It’s because advocacy efforts of LGBT groups have exposed the troubling practices. Advocacy groups are making it quite clear that the LGBT community (1) does not currently have equal rights under the law and (2) the rights they do have are under attack. Public awareness of the issue is helping to change the landscape of politics in the legislature. Courts across the country have already begun to dismantle anti-LGBT legislation. If lawmakers continue to fear for their future in the legislature, they may continue to refuse to discuss anti-LGBT bills. When fewer bills target LGBT rights and more bills supplement LGBT rights, equality will be more achievable.