Editorial: Anti-LGBTQ backlash means we're winning

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 7, 2023
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Amos Lim, right, carefully pinned a corsage on his soon-to-be-husband, Mickey Lim, during the first day of same-sex marriages in California on June 17, 2008. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br>
Amos Lim, right, carefully pinned a corsage on his soon-to-be-husband, Mickey Lim, during the first day of same-sex marriages in California on June 17, 2008. Photo: Rick Gerharter

With all the headlines about retailers coming under fire for selling Pride-themed merchandise, legislation trying to curb drag performers, and some locales canceling Pride events due to hostile local agitators, it's important to remember that overall, the LGBTQ community is winning — and that's a big reason why we've become the object of so much ridicule and scorn on the right. At the same time, we need to pay attention to the vitriol, which is ramping up now that it's Pride Month.

On a positive note, a recent Gallup poll has found that support for same-sex marriage remains strong at 71% nationwide. According to Gallup, that matches the high recorded in 2022. Even among Republicans, it's at 49%, though it remains lower, at 41%, among weekly churchgoers. "Public support for same-sex marriage has been consistently above 50% since the early 2010s," Gallup stated in its report. (The survey is from Gallup's Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 1-24 and used a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The sampling error was plus/minus 4 points.)

Not surprisingly, the groups most in favor of legal same-sex marriage are the same found in previous years — adults aged 18 to 29 (89%), Democrats (84%), and infrequent churchgoers (83%), Gallup stated. Same-sex marriage has received majority support in the U.S. for over a decade, and support has been on an upward trajectory for most of Gallup's polling since 1996.

Same-sex marriage, of course, became the law of the land after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision. More recently, Gallup noted that President Joe Biden last December signed bipartisan legislation to ward off future judicial attempts at undoing its legality. That was the Respect for Marriage Act, which repealed the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" that was passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide but also mandates that states must recognize such unions performed in other states. The act includes protections for religious liberty.

Gallup's poll report stated that among many groups — including older adults, Protestants, and residents of the South — perspectives on same-sex marriage have gone from majority opposition to majority support over the course of the organization's surveys spanning more than a quarter of a century. In 1996, support for same-sex marriage was only 27%.

The polling numbers give us hope that an effort to repeal the "zombie language" of Proposition 8 in California's constitution on the November 2024 ballot is winnable. This week gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) amended his Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 with the language for excising Prop 8's definition of marriage being between a man and a woman.

The Legislature is expected to back putting it before the state's voters next fall. And while the polling on the marriage equality is promising, a well orchestrated campaign on behalf of repealing Prop 8 will still be essential in light of the intense backlash against LGBTQ rights that is even popping up in liberal California.

It's the acceptance of same-sex marriage by such an overwhelming majority of U.S. residents that has led, in part, to the current battles over transgender rights, such as gender-affirming care for trans youth and adults. We've seen that with the marriage equality battle largely over, conservatives have pivoted to fighting against rights for transgender people, many of whom are more vulnerable than gays and lesbians. Trans people continue to experience greater unemployment and underemployment, as well as access to housing. Even here in the blue Bay Area, unhoused trans people have a very difficult time, a fact that was brought into stark reality with the shooting in April of Banko Brown, an unhoused trans man, by a Walgreens security guard at a downtown San Francisco store.

Conservative politicians have attempted — sometimes successfully — to halt the march to equality with discriminatory laws. The courts, however, have served as a check against legislative excess and there are some early hopeful signs.

On June 2, a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump threw out an anti-drag law in Tennessee, ruling that it was unconstitutional. In his decision, U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker wrote that the law violates First Amendment freedom of speech protections and was "unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad," as the Washington Post reported. Parker had earlier issued a preliminary injunction to block the law from taking effect, stating that it was too broad. That's the problem with laws like this, as we noted in an article last week. Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis recently signed a similar bill that is a little more specific, so it remains to be seen if a court challenge will be successful. But the judge's decision in Tennessee, which likely will be appealed by the conservative legislature, nonetheless put lawmakers on notice that they must craft laws that don't run afoul of free speech.

Remain vigilant

In spite of the progress and court victories, LGBTQ people must remain vigilant, especially during Pride Month. This week the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization, for the first time declared a "state of emergency" for queer people in the U.S. It joins recent travel advisories issued by Equality Florida, the NAACP, and the League of Latin American Citizens for the Sunshine State, saying that under DeSantis, the state has become openly hostile to African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals.

HRC issued its declaration along with a new report detailing more than 75 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been signed into law this year, more than doubling last year's number, which in itself was a record. HRC has compiled a guidebook for the community that contains "know your rights" information and a summary of state-level laws. People should download it, particularly if they're planning to travel to a state that has anti-LGBTQ laws. California, we'll note, has none of the anti-LGBTQ laws highlighted in the report.

So yes, the extreme pushback the LGBTQ community has received via these laws in red states is reprehensible. But conservatives are reacting to an unjustified fear of the "other," and we must not capitulate. Be careful, but have pride in who you are — because that's what bothers them the most.

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