2015 was an historic year for progress in LGBT rights. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States found it unconstitutional to ban LGBT equal marriage rights allow heterosexual peers and that all 50 states must recognize marriages from other states. Forty-one years after the first court case for same-sex marriage was presented, LGBT Americans and their relationships, were recognized with the 1,138 rights of marriage.
This would not have been possible without support from President Barack Obama who officially supported LGBT Equality in his 2012 reelection campaign. In addition, the Democratic party, for the first time, added LGBT to the official party platform.
One of our greatest champions for equality, former United States Attorney General Eric Holder, retired in 2015. Holder worked with President Obama to lead the nation to an era of Pro-Equality policy. As Attorney General , Holder formed the nation’s first hate crimes task force, was a leader in the decision not to support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and began prosecuting and investigating hate crimes under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HRC,2015).
Succeeding Holder current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was appointed in 2015 as the first African American woman to hold the position and has received approval for her support of LGBT rights as the United States Attorney for Eastern District in New York.
Randy Berry was appointed and served as U.S. State Department’s Envoy for LGBT Human Rights, the first Federal United States position with a mandate to advance LGBT Rights (HRC, 2015). This position was created in recognition that 20 countries have passed pro-equality laws but 85 still approve criminal sentences, violence, and even death for being LGBT.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown, signed several pro-equality bills. Governor Brown has signed seven out of eight bill sponsored by the nation’s second largest LGBT organization, Equality California (EQCA) since being Governor for a second time from 2011 to present. Transgender people were protected under the anti-hate crimes legislation and AB 959 requiring more data collection from state health and social services departments. Brown signed AB 960 recognizing intended parents using assisted reproduction and AB 827 to identify bullying in schools. In addition, SB 703 requiring all companies with state contracts to provide equal healthcare coverage to transgender employees (EQCA, 2015)
While LGBT people across the country celebrated this progress after decades of work, conservatives and anti-LGBT groups were ready to counter and push back the progress.
Groups like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) worked to oppose over 115 discriminatory bills introduced in 29 states, like Governor Mike Pence of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Despite major victories the battle for civil rights equality and even marriage equality are not over yet. In thirty-one states LGBT people can still be fired or refused employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means one can get married but also fired the next day for wearing their wedding ring to work, their partner picking them up from work, or tell a coworker they married a same-sex partner.In addition, LGBT people in these states can be evicted, denied medical treatment, admission to schools, and public accommodations.
Leaders like HRC’s Executive Director, Chad Griffin and Rick Zbur of EQCA want LGBT people, families, and allies to remember “The time has come for full federal equality.” Both groups have supported the Equality Act, introduced by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. This bill offers the legal foundation for equality and legal protections but needs support and faces significant opposition because both houses of Congress are Republican (EQCA, 2015).