In recent years, the country has witnessed great advances in LGBTQ rights, most notably with the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that marriage equality is protected by the Constitution.
However, the biggest change over the last 20 years has been in public opinion toward LGBTQ rights, not just in policy. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that in 2001 only 35 percent of Americans supported marriage equality, and 57 percent were opposed to it. In 2019, 61 percent supported it, and 31 percent were opposed. These numbers represent a dramatic change in public opinion on LGBTQ rights in the last two decades.
Even though public opinion is shifting positively, President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to reverse the rights and protections granted to members of the LGBTQ community.
The Trump administration attacks on LGBTQ rights span all parts of life from the workplace to health care to education to housing. Most recently, the administration issued a final rule that allows medical professionals to refuse to give services to transgender patients. Other incursions include Trump’s decision to ban all transgender people from serving in the military, as well as Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’s determination to steer taxpayer dollars to private religious schools through voucher schemes, even though many of these schools discriminate against LGBTQ students.
The Trump administration has also aggressively pushed for the so-called right of business owners to deny services to members of the LGBTQ community and has even backed allowing taxpayer-funded “faith-based” institutions, such as foster care and adoption agencies, to refuse to work with members of the LGBTQ community and others.
Essentially, what we’ve seen over the last few decades is that although the rise in public opinion supporting LGBTQ rights is necessary and important, policies and laws that implement change are the most decisive factor in creating real progress. Unfortunately, as support for LGBTQ rights increases among the population, this administration, at the behest of its Christian nationalist allies, is trying to turn the clock backward and limit these rights.
The recent Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, affirming employment protections for LGBTQ people, represented an important step in the right direction, yet there are still many more areas in which the Trump administration is threatening to limit the rights of LGBTQ people.
Public opinion is important, but it can only take us so far. Fighting discriminatory policies in court and working to block them in Congress and in state legislatures is crucial. Americans United does this important work every day. We’d love to have your help!