It might seem, with all of the news about Religious Freedom Refusal Acts and City Clerks refusing to marry people, that there is more opposition to LGBT equality after the Supreme Court ruling that legal bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional (HRC, 2016). This is not true. For decades, LGBT has been fought in a legal forum even though much of the core opposition is based in religion.
Marriage equality was defeated for decades on the argument that it infringes on States Rights and Non-discrimination policies on lack of evidence that discrimination exists. We did win marriage equality last year and it has forced many in opposition to fight for legislation that explicitly gives them the power to discriminate against LGBT as backlash (HRC, 2016).
The laws can actually create a stronger legal foundation for Non-discrimination legislation and civil rights inclusion at the municipal, state, and federal levels of government. The more that extremists win discriminatory laws that establish discrimination, the more it is recorded in the law. It creates a record of discrimination and a stronger basis for LGBT Civil Rights attorneys to cite, appeal the laws for being unconstitutional, and establish non-discrimination laws that replace the discriminatory laws.
As the majority of the American public shifts in favor of supporting full legal equality, the focus changes from should LGBT people have legal equality to, is it necessary to establish non-discrimination policies in all branches of government (HRC, 2015)?
Many people are unaware that in 31 states it is still legal to fire, evict, refuse service, and education to someone based on their gender identity or sexual orientation (HRC, maps). Many people question if this occurs and question where their right to religious freedom effects these laws. Religious freedom is a recognized and protected right in the First Amendment of the Constitution and in the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. It is important to remember that its inclusion was based on opposing religious discrimination. Rather than establishing the power to use religious freedom to discriminate against others, it established the right for individuals to choose their religious beliefs despite what the government, politicians, or employers believed. At the time the United States Constitution was written many countries in Europe had established national Churches; Protestants and other groups were facing discrimination. The Constitution recognizes our rights as groups that have historically been discriminated against and that discriminating is legally unacceptable rather than giving recognized groups power to discriminate against other people. The basis is to prevent discrimination, not empower refusals.
Currently, the Equality Act is before the United States Congress but needs significant support before it will pass important committees. In 2013, a similar bill, the Employment Non-discrimination Act, passed the Senate but was block from a vote from the House of Representative by then Speaker of the House John Boehner (HRC, ENDA). The fight for full federal equality is a long-term commitment to make changes in Congress that currently has a Republican Senate and House and electing a President that will sign the Bill into law, but it is possible.
Groups like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) focus on bipartisan support and changing hearts and minds. Recently, they supported Republican Senator form Illinois, Mike Kirk as the first Republican Co-Sponsor of the Equality Act. (HRC.org)
The current politics around the Nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court are a reminder that politics is not supposed to be tactics and politicking (WSJ). Solutions are bipartisan and collaborative. Currently, President Obama is working closely on international trade deals introduced by Republicans and Paul Ryan. It will be necessary to achieve bi-partisan support and equality will be a slow process but it can be won (WSJ, Trade).