On June 26 this year, the LGBT rights movement in America won its biggest victory ever — same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. While the Supreme Court ruling was a monumental step toward equality, the country still has a ways to go before the LGBT community is actually treated the same as everyone else in every state. Legalizing same-sex marriage tackled multiple issues gay couples faced, like having their marriage licenses recognized everywhere, allowing partners to adopt children together, and being recognized as a spouse after death. These are all essential aspects of giving the LGBT community full rights, but gay marriage doesn't solve every problem — gay individuals still face discrimination in employment, housing, education, adoption, and many other aspects of everyday life. So, what do LGBT activists hope to achieve next in the struggle for gay rights?
In 28 states, people can legally be fired from their job due to their sexual orientation because current civil rights laws don't protect against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. Even if they don't lose their job, they're often harassed at work for being gay. A 2011 study found that 38 percent of people identifying as LGBT have been harassed on the job at some point.
Housing discrimination is another issue still affecting the LGBT community in many parts of the country. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects people from housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, and familial status, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Only 22 states specifically ban housing discrimination due to a person's sexual orientation, and only 17 of those states prohibit unfair treatment based on gender identity or expression. This means that people in more than half of all states can legally be denied an apartment or loans to buy a house because they're gay.
There's clearly still a long list of legal protections the LGBT rights movement needs to accomplish before real equality is obtained. Here are the goals five LGBT activists hope to achieve next, some of which have been in the works for a while.
Stephen Peters, Human Rights Campaign national press secretary
"Despite the historic victory of nationwide marriage equality, and sometimes because of it, discrimination against LGBT people is increasingly evident. Marriage equality won’t protect LGBT people from discrimination at school, work, or in public places. That's why HRC is committed to passing a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination bill, one that touches on the core civil rights categories in federal law — housing, public accommodations, employment, federal funding, jury service, and the education we all need to thrive.
"This fight will be one of our hardest, and opponents of equality are still fighting us at every turn. But we have the moral high ground, and from state legislatures to the hall of Congress, we’ll fight and we'll win alongside friends, allies, and the far majority of fair-minded Americans to ensure that LGBT people are treated equally."
Carl Siciliano, the Ali Forney Center's founder and executive director
"Right now, a conservative estimate would place 200,000 LGBT youth on the streets. There are fewer than 4,000 beds dedicated to the special needs of LGBT youth. I think it’s a disgrace that the wealthiest nation in the world is willing to leave hundreds of thousands of kills in the streets without housing. I think it’s a disgrace that we don’t consider providing housing for children part of the basic safety net of our country. I’m committed and dedicated to finding a way to lift up the voices of these young people. I want their suffering and their degradation and their peril to be heard and understood.
"We’ve collaborated with the National Coalition for the Homeless on the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. What we’re calling or is a three step process: Step one is immediately adding 22,000 beds (based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's estimate of homeless LGBT youth). The next step is to support a better count of homeless youth in nation... Then, we want a 10-year commitment to build up enough housing so homeless youth are not left without housing."
Emily McGranachan, Family Equality Council East Coast regional manager
"Every child deserves a family, so this is an issue nationwide that’s one of the big policies the Family Equality Council is championing — the Every Child Deserves A Family Act.
"This is one step in our movement, and there are many pieces that help our families live safe, secure, and supported lives. A lot of it is state by state, so we’re really pushing for better laws in states that are already allowing couples to adopt and foster to make sure they’re codified in law. In states where there are already laws or positive practices, it's making sure they’re really considering the full breadth of parents willing to adopt and foster. Michigan passed a law that would allow different individuals to deny LGBT couples the right to foster or adopt solely based on that individual’s moral objection to their LGBT identity. This is a perfect example of something that we’re really working hard to fight… because it’s denying the children loving and stable homes."
Dr. Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) executive director
"The Supreme Court’s ruling is a major step forward in ensuring equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, but it is certainly not the final one. We must eliminate anti-LGBT bias and violence from all aspects of education, and make sure that LGBT youth have true access to educational opportunity and developmental supports. The majority of LGBT youth face bullying, harassment and discriminatory policies every day, but, thankfully, we know what it takes to turn those school climates around. Our research and engagement with students and educators have shown that supportive educators, student clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances, LGBT-inclusive curriculum, and anti-bullying and harassment policies that specifically protect LGBT students make schools safer and more affirming for LGBT youth.
"As far as legislation, on the federal level we support the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which would require all public K-12 schools to enact fully inclusive anti-bullying policies that have specific protections against bullying and harassment of all students, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would protect LGBT students from discrimination in the nation’s K-12 public schools by establishing new federal non-discrimination protections modeled after Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. On the state and local level, we support laws and policies that specifically protect students from bullying, harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression."
Stacey Long Simmons, National LGBTQ Task Force director of public policy and government affairs
"We are extremely excited about the win in terms of marriage equality and we’re using a lot of the energy and enthusiasm as an opportunity to amplify other messages we've been committed to for some time having to do with eradicating economic discrimination — [protecting] people who get married and once their employers find out they’re LGBT, decide to fire them. So while they can file a complaint at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we want to make sure there’s an official protection and a continuity of protection across the country.
"It hasn’t been introduced yet... but there's a broad LGBT nondiscrimination bill that includes employment, housing, and education, modeled after the Civil Rights Act of '64 and other pieces of federal law that protect other groups. We just want to be protected like everyone else."
Images: Courtesy of Stephen Peters (1); Courtesy of the Ali Forney Center (1); Courtesy of Emily McGranachan (1); Courtesy of GLSEN (1); Courtesy of Stacey Long Simmons (1)