By Ron Flynn
Alice Board, Co-Chair
2103 was an amazing year for LGBT rights in the law. We entered 2013 with momentum, a chance to make history. And history we made.
As the year started, we had just gone from seven states to ten that recognized full marriage equality; with Maine, Maryland, and Washington voting for equality on election in day in November. But that was just the beginning. In 2013 we won marriage equality in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico (and briefly, gasp, in Utah). And of course, in California! Today, in 18 states and the District of Columbia, we can be married.
And when the Windsor decision came down, so did the Federal government’s willful discrimination against our legal marriages under the Orwellian-named Defense of Marriage Act. Married veterans now get death benefits. Widows and widowers get Social Security Benefits. Bi-National LGBT couples can come out of the shadows. When the United States Supreme Court recognized LGBT families, our lives changed forever. And on Pride weekend! Wow, what an amazing party that was.
We also had another huge success this year. AB-1266. The California School Success and Opportunity Act, helps us meet our obligation to all of our students: our education system must provide a quality, safe education for all students, including transgender students. How could anyone be opposed to giving dignity and respect to all of our students? Unbelievably, almost 500,000 Californians signed a petition to overturn the law. If our opponents in fact gathered enough signatures, we will be in for the fight of our lives.
What a year. But our successes are not done, and our successes are not enough.
Marriage equality cases have been filed in many more states. In Michigan, a trial will begin this month, the first marriage equality since Perry. Rumor has it that the right has a new crop of “expert” witnesses, ones even less qualified than the ones who hid in the shadows in Perry. We have many more states to win over, but history in our side.
And even if we avoid the fight over AB-1266, the all-out effort to overturn it is alarming. It makes clear that the fringe-right is betting on an age-old divide and conquer strategy. They intend to go after the Transgender community with the sick stereotypes: it is a choice, it is perverted, it is against God, and it hurts children. Those arguments should sound familiar, they used them against our entire community for years, and they actually worked until recently. We as a community must stand firm against these discriminatory tactics. We also must go further and embrace full equality for the Transgender community.
What is next? Enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, with protections for the entire LGBT community. Our community will never be fully equal until women and people of color are not only fully valued, but also equally compensated in the workplace. Violence continue to hurt us, both from those who want us to go away, and from within our community in the form of domestic violence. In January, in a case involving the composition of juries, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear that laws that negatively impact the LGBT community face heightened-judicial scrutiny. This is huge step forward.
So we made history in 2013. Now we have to get to work to make sure that the gains we have made are not reversed, and that our entire community benefits from our gains. Please come join me and my new Co- Chair, Zoe Dunning, as Alice kicks off 2014.