by SUSAN FERENTINOS
Public support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) rights in the United States has increased rapidly over the past decade. A CBS News poll conducted in June 2020 found that 82% of Americans think gays and lesbians should be protected by law against discrimination. However, this growing acceptance is not fully represented in our laws or among political candidates in this year’s election, and protections for transgender Americans lag significantly behind those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
In Indiana, it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in housing, education, and public accommodations. This state also permits discrimination against transgender people in access to health services and has no LGBTQ protections with regard to hate crimes or school bullying. Employment discrimination only ended this past June, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that LGBTQ people are included under existing civil rights laws at the federal level.
At the national level, President Trump has systematically rolled back Obama-era policies aimed at protecting transgender people from violence and discrimination. As a result of the Trump administration’s actions, transgender people are currently barred from serving in the military; they can legally be denied health care; and under federal policy, schools can refuse to recognize students’ gender identity.
Looking ahead, despite the recent CBS News poll finding that 71% of Republicans support protections for gays and lesbians (but not necessarily transgender people), this year the Republican Party is using the same platform it used in 2016. This platform includes a call to end legal recognition of same-sex marriage; objects to laws allowing transgender people to use the restroom that conforms to their gender identity; and rejects “the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation,” a phrase widely understood to refer at least to transgender military service if not LGBTQ service generally.
In contrast, the Democratic Party platform pledges to “protect and promote the equal rights of all our citizens—women, LGBTQ+ people, religious minorities, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and all who have been discriminated against in too many ways and for too many generations.” The platform also supports a national Equality Act, which will outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, public accommodations, education, and federal programs. The platform also calls for programs to curb crimes against transgender Americans; protection of LGBTQ children against bullying, assault, and harmful mental health interventions known as conversion therapy; and an end of discrimination against LGBTQ people when seeking to adopt or foster children.
Discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, particularly those who identify as transgender, is still very much a reality, and this is all the more true for LGBTQ Hoosiers, since Indiana offers fewer protections than many other states. Your vote in this election will help determine our future.
Susan Ferentinos, Ph.D., is a historical consultant for museums, national parks, and historic preservation projects throughout the United States. She specializes in LGBTQ and women’s history and is the author of the book Interpreting LGBTQ History at Museums and Historic Sites. Follow her on Twitter: @HistorySue.