2015 LGBT issues in review
Of course, the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage not only dominated the headlines for most of the year but also had the most significant impact since their sodomy decision in 2003. The rush of gays and lesbians to make their relationships legal set off an economic boom in many communities that continues. Public opinion has radically shifted on the issue in spite of the predictable backlash in state legislation and comical grandstanding of people like Kim Davis.
Yes, that was the big story of the year, but other trends also were significant. The continued growth of movements such as the Reconciling Ministries Network, The Reformation Project, and the Gay Christian Network continued to narrow the wide gap between the LGBT communities and organized religion. Some denominations are more progressive than others, but the trend is clearly to more acceptance of gays into the church.
After decades of rejection, gays and lesbians also are becoming more open about their Christian and Jewish beliefs and regular participation in worship services and church activities. They would have been derided a decade as “goodie-goodies” who were unwilling to accept their homosexuality and “go all the way.” Well, it is clear now that there is no such thing as a “gay lifestyle,” since people with same-sex orientation and gender identity express it in as many different ways as heterosexuals do. The “coupling” of LGBT people had been under the radar of the media for decades, but now we’ve been discovered and even celebrated.
In spite of the “religious liberty” exclusion laws being rushed through the southern legislatures and debated in others, the backlash against same-sex marriage has been surprisingly muted. In spite of the demagoguery of the Republican Presidential candidates, mainstream Americans have moved on. Of course, the Tea Party and the Radical Right will continue to pursue this as a wedge political issue, but the facts are that they are losing public support even among the evangelical community. The anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim rhetoric appeals to a radical minority, but it is not a winning strategy for the general election.
The referendum on the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was a major setback in that it reflected the residual bigotry of a large element of the population. The lies and subterfuge of the “bathroom” ads were effective in framing the issue to appeal to fear rather than to discuss the issue of discrimination. The big lie can still work. Transgender people are still facing the most discrimination.
The ordinance also reflected the strategy of the LGBT community that has been focused on getting community and state protections since for 20 years the federal employment non-discrimination act has been blocked in Congress. The Republicans still have enough votes to block it, and some Democrats are afraid to stick out their necks. Perhaps Obama can use his final year to seal his record on LGBT rights. That issue has been raised in the courts, but it is very difficult to win.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military is history, and the problem now has become one of sexual harassment of women, suicides of war-damaged veterans, and spousal abuse. The predicted cataclysm of gays in the military didn’t happen, as has been demonstrated in all of the other military commands of NATO.
This was a good year for the LGBT community, but we still have work to do.