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LGBTQ equality: the work is not over

The fight for LGBTQ human rights and equality is far from over.

We’re celebrating three historic moments in the fight for LGBTQ equality this month. Five years ago, on June 26, 2015, a group of LGBTQ plaintiffs who argued that their states’ refusal to recognize marriage equality violated their constitutional rights took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. 

Just after the victory in Obergefell v. Hodges, members of the LGBTQ community rejoiced on the steps of the nation’s highest court, couples were wed in mass marriage ceremonies and the White House was lit with the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ pride flag. The national recognition of marriage equality was a momentous step that opened the door to a brighter future for LGBTQ families by granting important legal rights and protections to all married couples, no matter where they live or who they love.  

This Sunday also marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. On June 28, 1969, the LGBTQ residents of New York City’s Greenwich Village resoundingly rejected police violence against their community and rose up in protest of institutional anti-LGTBQ oppression. Their marches for equality erupted into a nationwide push for acceptance that became the basis for Pride Month. 

Just this month, more than 50 years after Stonewall and decades in the making, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision allowing LGBTQ people across the country to work without fear of being fired simply for being themselves. 

These powerful victories were, however, met with a backlash of hate. The radical right wasted no time responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell. After the historic expansion of LGBTQ rights, they retaliated by organizing an onslaught of state-level anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The transgender community was the target of most of these laws — laws that claimed to be about public safety or religious liberty, but were designed to allow blatant discrimination without consequences. 

Seventeen bills banning transgender people, including children, from entering a bathroom that didn’t match the gender on their birth certificate were introduced in 2015, and at least a dozen more have been introduced since. And the challenges continue to this day, with Idaho legislators passing a ban on allowing transgender women athletes to participate in sports at public schools, colleges and universities. 

These laws are a symptom of a much deeper problem: Although marriage equality, equal employment rights and the establishment of LGBTQ Pride Month were watershed victories for the LGBTQ community, the push for LGBTQ rights and equality is far from over.

Today, we continue the fight to ensure members of the LGBTQ community can embrace their authentic selves without fear of violence or retaliation. That means wiping discriminatory laws from the books in all 50 states and replacing them with legislation that protects and affirms LGBTQ rights. It also means we must confront the reality of anti-transgender hate in our country. 

Transgender people of color led the Stonewall uprising. They raised their voices not only in the name of equality, but in defense of their own right to live. Today, transgender lives, especially Black lives, remain under constant threat. In 2019, 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people, 23 of whom were women and 19 of whom were Black, were murdered. Fifteen transgender people or gender non-conforming people have been killed so far this year. 

It is our responsibility to be outspoken and inclusive in our advocacy for LGBTQ equality, and to uplift transgender people who — half a century after Stonewall — are still fighting for their liberation.

As we commemorate this historic month, the SPLC remains committed to protecting and advancing the rights of all members of the LGBTQ community. Thank you for joining us.

Photo by Angela Weiss / Getty Images