Tag Archives: progress

Mark Pocan: Fighting Trump to save eight years of hard-won progress

The end of Obama’s presidency leaves the LGBTQ community at a crossroads. While it remains to be seen whether the next president will rollback protections and civil rights for our community, the track record of the Republican party and Donald Trump’s recent Cabinet appointments do not give me confidence.

The president-elect, and many of the people he is surrounding himself with, have shown apathy and even contempt for LGBTQ people, women, people of color and immigrants. The radically conservative agenda they are proposing unfairly targets so many communities that have struggled to achieve equality. As an LGBTQ elected official and a proud member of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, I am on the frontline of the battle to save the eight years of hard-won progress that is now in danger – and I will embrace that role.

The LGBTQ community intersects with all other communities, spanning every demographic group. We are all genders, races and members of every religious community. We come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, levels of education and hold different systems of belief.

When our community is under attack, everyone is under attack. This is why it is important we begin to operate in unison with a shared mission and vision to fight anti-equality efforts.

Together, we must fight to make sure employers cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — in Wisconsin or anywhere in our country. I am incredibly proud that Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to protect people based on sexual orientation, yet 34 years after that landmark bill was signed, we have yet to protect transgender people from being fired from their jobs or denied service at a grocery store, simply because of who they are.

This injustice extends to the majority of states in our nation, and the absence of a federal law makes the LGBTQ community incredibly vulnerable. This is just one of many equality issues we expected to address in Congress next year, but now seems in peril given the election results.

There is still progress that needs to be made, and we cannot allow the momentum we gained over the past eight years to falter.

It is now more apparent than ever that LGBTQ representation in elected positions at every level of government matters. With this election, we now have 500 out and proud elected officials in the country. The support of allies is invaluable, but it cannot replace the understanding of a lived experience — knowing what it’s like to be denied relationship recognition or being targeted for violence because you are holding your partner’s hand. LGBTQ elected officials understand the gravity of these issues, so in this post-election uncertainty, we are coming together to use our collective power to effectively oppose efforts to target the rights of the LGBTQ community or any other community.

The fight won’t be easy — but know that as your Congress member, I will be an outspoken and relentless voice for equality regardless of who is in the White House, and I will do everything I can to protect our progress in the coming months and years.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District

Tallying 2013: Wins outnumber losses

Most advances in the LGBT civil rights movement in 2013 were on the marriage front, with victories in statehouses in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota and Rhode Island, as well as courts in New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma and, most significantly, the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the annual Human Rights Campaign state-by-state report, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group tallied up the wins and the losses in 2013.

HRC counted 662 “good” LGBT-related bills introduced in 2013, with 56 of them passing — none in Wisconsin.

HRC also counted 187 “bad” LGBT-related bills introduced in 2013, with 11 passing — none in Wisconsin.

Marriage and relationships: In the win column, along with the passage of marriage equality legislation, the Nevada Legislature moved forward in an effort to repeal the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.. Also, Colorado legalized civil unions and lawmakers in Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and West Virginia kept anti-gay amendments at bay.

In the loss column, Arkansas and Oklahoma legislatures passed bills affirming anti-gay marriage amendments.

Anti-discrimination: Only Delaware lawmakers enacted anti-discrimination legislation in 2013, passing a bill banning discrimination based on gender identity. Though it was the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, Wisconsin does not ban discrimination based on gender identity.

Hate crimes: Two states — Delaware and Nevada — amended hate crimes statutes to include bias crimes based on gender identity.

Education and youth: California passed legislation guaranteeing transgender students access to programs and facilities consistent with their gender identity. New Jersey passed legislation barring mental health professionals from subjecting minors to so-called “ex-gay” therapy. 

HRC president Chad Griffin said there were great strides made in 2013, but it “is clear much work remains to be done at the state level. We’ve got to work harder than ever before, because no LGBT American should have to wait for fairness, no matter where they live.”

HRC, in its analysis, also offered an outlook for 2014. 

“Some cynics are already arguing that 2013 was an outlier — that we’ll never have another string of victories like it. They’re wrong,” Griffin said. “We’ve got unprecedented momentum at our backs.”

This year, HRC is watching for a renewed push to add gender identity to a non-discrimination law in New York and for comprehensive non-discrimination bills in Missouri, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Maryland recently passed legislation banning bias based on gender identity.

More than a dozen states may take up legislation to ban “ex-gay” therapy for kids. Also, Minnesota lawmakers continue to consider an anti-bullying bill.

HRC released its report just as national attention was focusing on Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed people, organizations and businesses to ignore non-discrimination laws because of their religious beliefs. Similar bills were introduced in other states. One was just signed by the governor of Mississippi.

Flashback 2013: Progress vs. backlash around the globe

France, Uruguay, New Zealand and England legalized same-sex marriage in 2013 — unprecedented advancements in the quest for equality for LGBT people.

And spring arrived with the election of a pope who brought hope that the Catholic Church, a leading force in a global campaign against LGBT rights, would change its ways.

But anti-LGBT violence around the world marred a year hailed by some in the United States as the greatest in gay rights history. Activists documented a rise in anti-gay extremism in Africa. Pride celebrants faced arrest and assault in parts of Asia and Europe. And Russian President Vladimir Putin spearheaded a Soviet-style persecution of gay people even as the country prepared to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

A look at some of the big stories of 2013:

• In March, after an abrupt announcement that Benedict XVI was retiring, the world was introduced to a new pontiff — Pope Francis, who has repeatedly affirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to legalized abortion but also has said church leaders cannot be fixated on the politics of abortion or gay marriage.

• New Zealand, which had allowed civil unions since 2005, legalized same-sex marriage on April 17. In a speech before the final vote on the bill, which took effect in August, lawmaker Tau Henare concluded with a traditional greeting in his indigenous Maori. He said, “My message to you all is, ‘Welcome to the mainstream.’ … Do well. Kia Ora.”

• Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-sex couple to marry in France, their wedding in May taking place in the southern city of Montpellier under tight police surveillance. In the months before and the weeks after, right-wing protesters demonstrated against the marriage equality law, which President François Hollande had made a priority. The anti-gay demonstrations drew hundreds of thousands of protesters and, on multiple occasions, turned violent.

• In June, human rights advocates urged President Barack Obama to address rising levels of anti-LGBT violence in Africa when he visited the continent. “These attacks, sometimes deadly, must be stopped,” said Widney Brown of Amnesty International. “In too many cases, these attacks on individuals and groups are being fueled by key politicians and religious leaders who should be using their position to fight discrimination and promote equality.” Homosexuality is a crime in 38 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

• In the summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure that bans giving young people information about homosexuality. The ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” was enacted as part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values over Western liberalism. The law allows for fines and arrests of Russian citizens and tourists. It has fueled a wave of anti-LGBT violence in Russia and boycotts of Russian products elsewhere.

• Queen Elizabeth, on July 17, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The bill, passed after a long and hard fight in Parliament, won’t go into effect until next year. “The title of this bill might be ‘Marriage’ but its fabric is about freedom and respect,” said Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

• Same-sex couples began marrying in early August in Uruguay, the third country in the Americas, after Canada and Argentina, to legalize gay marriage. Sergio Mirando and Rodrigo Borda became the first gay couple to marry. “No longer will there be first- and second-class citizens,” Borda said. “This will be seen in many countries where this option still isn’t possible, and hopefully help people in those places live more freely.”