On this day in 1979, more than 100,000 people marched on Washington to demand equal rights for LGBT people.
But nearly four decades after the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is intent on rolling back their rights.
Just over a week ago, Sessions issued a memo to Department of Justice lawyers asserting that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers from employment discrimination. His directive overturned the protective policy established under President Barack Obama.
That same day, the DOJ moved to dismiss the first lawsuit against President Trump's transgender military ban.
A few days later, Sessions issued a “religious freedom” guidance, essentially inviting government employees and contractors to discriminate against LGBT people, as long as they cite a religious reason for doing so.
It was a stunning series of policy measures that laid bare the Trump administration’s cruel anti-LGBT agenda.
The impetus for this assault on LGBT protections certainly did not come from the public. Seventy percent of Americans now believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. That’s 7 percentage points higher even than last year – and a major step forward from a decade ago.
Today, many of the most vocal anti-LGBT groups are in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated as a hate group by the SPLC.
The hateful rhetoric of the FRC and the other hate groups at the Summit raises the question: Whose values, exactly, do they purport to represent?
Surely not those of LGBT people, who have been portrayed by the FRC as sick, incestuous, perverted and a danger to children and the nation.
And certainly not those of the majority of Americans.
Bigotry is not an American value. But under a president who sees “very fine people” at a neo-Nazi rally, it’s no surprise that groups like FRC are moving into the mainstream — or that President Trump himself was a keynote speaker at the conference, something no sitting president has ever done.
"Today in the capital of America, we are all here, the almost liberated and the slightly repressed; the butch, the femme and everything in-between,” wrote Allen Young at that first march. “Yes, we are all here! We are everywhere! Welcome to the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights!"
That was 1979. Today, the capital looks very different.
P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:
- “We don’t want to give in to hate,” says Bill Clinton in speech honoring the Little Rock Nine by the SPLC
- Cooking them to death: the lethal toll of hot prisons by Maurice Chammah for The Marshall Project
- They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants by Amy Julia Harris and Shoshona Walter for Reveal News
- The South’s Ellis Island by Carly Berlin for The Bitter Southerner