Major political crossroads for LGBT rights in the United States

August Zeidman, Feautures Editor

The past ten years have seen radical changes in the American social attitude. Specifically, LGBT Americans have received nationwide protections and rights, such as the right to marry and adopt children. However, these hard-fought protections have come under attack and are at risk of being reduced or, in some cases, eliminated.
For instance, the first indication that LGBT rights were coming under attack was last July when President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Military to stop taking in transgender recruits. This order was largely dismissed by the Department of Defense, as Trump does not have the direct authority to make orders of that magnitude, and transgender recruits were allowed to serve freely in the military as of Jan. 1.
“I wish people would realize that it is impossible to turn back time and take LGBT rights away. We will not forget the progress we have made, and accept what we are losing. Transgender recruits should not be kept from serving their country,” said senior Sarahi Interiano.
Another sign of the changing climate toward the LGBT community was when then-governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. This act allows corporations and individuals to refuse service or otherwise discriminate against LGBT individuals under the pretense that it is against their religion. This law was met with heavy criticism and continues to be a controversial piece of legislation.
This discriminatory behavior continued as, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department announced last July that they did not believe that the LGBT community was protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This law excludes them from the protections that victims of discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or national origin receive. This is in direct conflict with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, another agency under the Executive Branch, who had already supported LGBT rights under Title VII of the law. The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals could not agree over which law should be followed. Eventually, the court sided with the Justice Department. This was a big step back for LGBT rights.
“Discrimination is still discrimination, regardless of the reason. No one should be treated differently, and those who hurt others on purpose should pay the consequences,” said senior Danie DiRuggiero.
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and instead of honoring his fight for equal rights, we are choosing to undo our progress.
Across the world, there are countries where you can still be sentenced to death for homosexuality or—as is the case in Russia—imprisoned for even informing children that gay people exist. The United States is not in the worst position in the world, but with our influence and international clout, the U.S. acts as a role model for other countries. It is disappointing that the U.S. is moving backwards while traditionally more conservative countries such as Botswana and Taiwan are emerging from their shell to recognize LGBT rights.
“LGBT rights are a controversial topic in the United States. While there is more acceptance now than there was in the past, I think it is still an issue that has roadblocks that need to be worked through for complete equality,” said sophomore Priya Chainani.
The fight for LGBT rights will be remembered and written about just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s has been. It is time for the United States and the members of its government to take a decisive stand in favor of progress, not slipping back into the darkness of the past.