No, I’m not being dramatic. The Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in June 2015, but as early as April 2015, assuming that result, over 100 different pieces of anti-LGBT legislation had been introduced in 29 state legislatures [x]. Since SSM became law, that slew of bills became a flood, and many of them are being passed into law.
These laws broadly fall into four types: Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), anti-trans legislation, pro-“conversion therapy,” and bills that nullify local civil rights ordinances at state level. Some of them are so sweeping they claim other-than-LGBT victims — the RFRAs, in particular, have been detrimental to women seeking equal access to basic healthcare such as birth control, and people from religions other than Christians. Don’t want to rent your house to a Muslim couple? Simply claim it impinges upon your religious sensibilities to do so, and get out of jail free! Don’t want to have your female employees accessing contraception? No worries! Even the Supreme Court will uphold your right to dictate what their medical insurance can provide [x].
Yesterday, while pressure was mounting on the Governor of Georgia not to sign the RFRA on his desk [x], North Carolina called a special session (at a cost of some $42,000 to the taxpayers) in order to rush a bill through both houses in less than ten hours. Last night, it was signed into law [x].
NC HB2 was a reactionary bill drafted because the city of Charlotte decided to introduce a local non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT residents. It would have come into effect in April 2016, however HB2 just overrode it. The new bill prohibits local governments from passing their own non-discriminatory ordinances, and affects housing, employment, education, and healthcare. It also prevents trans people from using the correct bathrooms (and prohibits parents accompanying children aged 6+ to the bathroom, even if a child is disabled and needs assistance). As well as Charlotte, there are 17 other local ordinances in NC that have been erased by this bill.
Bills like this are why I say — perfectly seriously, without hyperbole — the GOP wants us dead. They want queer kids to be isolated at schools: transgirls forced to use boys’ bathrooms and changing rooms, and Gay-Straight Alliance clubs to be banned [x] [x]. They want queer kids to be pushed into so-called “conversion therapy, ” outlawed as harmful/ineffective/fraud in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, and the District of Columbia [x], but elsewhere introduced into state legislature as a legitimate resource for parents unhappy with their child’s orientation [x]. This matters because kids who go through “conversion therapy” don’t stop being queer, but do face 8.9 times the rate of suicide ideation, and depression at 5.9 times the rate of the general population [x].
Even in states where GSAs are allowed and “conversion therapy” banned, queer kids are still woefully under-protected at state and federal levels. There’s some suggestion anti-LGBT bullying is covered under Title IX [x], but such rulings are still on shaky ground. Meanwhile a 2011 study of LGBT kids found 82% had suffered bullying for their orientation or gender identity in school, 64% felt unsafe at school as a result, and 32% had skipped at least one day of school in order to escape bullying or the threat of violence, and not without cause. 44% had suffered physical harassment, and 22% reported experiencing stronger violence. 61% didn’t report the attacks, but of those that did, almost a third said the school took no action [x].
The results of this are clearly quantifiable: queer kids are almost twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, with every incident of bullying or assault the chances of LGBT kids self-harming increases by 250%, and queer kids are four times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. Only 37% report being happy with their lives, compared with 67% of non-LGBT youth [x].
Even if queer kids make it through school, the campaign of bullying, harassment, and indifference they experience has a detrimental effect on their results. Compared to their peers, LGBT youths who experience bullying have a lower GPA and leave school with lower results [x] [x].
Out of school, young queer adults still struggle harder than their peers to attain the same goals. Getting into a good college is difficult, if not in some cases impossible, because they receive statistically below-par grades regardless of intelligence. Even if they are accepted by a college, there’s no guarantee they’ll get a loan to cover the tuition fees. There are no federal LGBT protections in the loan industry [x] [x].
Many LGBT kids end up on the streets before they even get to school leaving age. Across America, queer youth are estimated to comprise 5% of the population, but are 40% of the homeless population (perhaps more, such surveys are self-reporting and many states discriminate when it comes to homeless housing). Right now, there are between 320,000-400,000 LGBT kids living on America’s streets [x]. Such kids are at increased risk of drug and other substance addictions, prostitution, falling victim to sexual and physical violence, and being murdered.
Should an LGBT child make it to adulthood relatively unscathed, there are still additional hurdles they must face. RFRAs cover a slew of critical sectors, including housing, employment, and healthcare. Prior to the SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and SSM, same-sex couples were routinely denied basic advantages like shared health insurance policies, inherited pensions, and married couples’ tax breaks [x].
Simply living while queer costs considerably more, and security is hard to find. Under RFRAs, landlords can evict queer couples, bosses can fire LGBT employees, hospitals can refuse to acknowledge relationships, or deny critical medical treatment based on orientation or gendered identity. Even something as simple as getting credit or applying for a mortgage can become a minefield [x], but how is one to get on in modern America without any kind of social or financial stability?
Taken to their logical conclusion, RFRAs simply don’t want LGBT people to get on. They create a world in which queerfolk must exercise constant vigilance and hide who they are at all times, lest they lose their jobs, their homes, their credit, their loans, their ability to walk into a shop and make a purchase, their ability to do business with literally anyone, for any reason.
For some people, hiding is easier than for others. Recent bills have made much of trans rights — or, rather, taking them away. The rhetoric of predatory men in women’s bathrooms, using trans-positive legislation in order to commit sexual assaults, holds a powerful sway over the American public. Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance was repealed by public vote in dramatic fashion after the opponents of the legislation waged a successful campaign dubbing it the “Bathroom Bill” [x]. So successful was the campaign, in fact, a petition was started in response to “Drop the T from LGBT” [x]. Rather than fight the dangerous and blatantly false rhetoric that transwomen provide cover for sexual predators, some LGB individuals would rather break our community up.
This is especially worrying because transwomen are among the most visible and marginalised queerfolk in America. Transwomen are disproportionately disadvantaged — four times more likely to live in extreme poverty (income <$10,000/year), more likely to be victims of harassment and hate crimes, and more likely to end up engaged in sex work or living on the streets [x].
One in twelve transwomen is murdered in America. That number rises to one in eight transwomen of colour. The average life expectancy of a transwoman of colour in America in 2015 was 35 years old [x] [x] [x].That is a shameful statistic, but the GOP keep introducing bills that seem determined to reduce that life expectancy still further.
The focus on bathrooms is almost always on transwomen using female facilities. Often misgendered in increasingly heated debates, the rhetoric of “men in frocks” invading women’s — and girls’ — spaces in order to commit sexual crimes stirs passions and virtually guarantees the passage of draconian anti-trans legislation. No matter there is not a single documented case of any trans person committing any assault in any public facility anywhere in the USA. No matter if a man wanted to rape a woman or girl, the sign on the door saying “Women Only” wouldn’t keep him out, and he wouldn’t feel the need to wear a dress to do it. No matter, more to the point, that when transwomen are forced to use men’s facilities they are in very real and present danger. There are zero instances of transwomen attacking women in female facilities, but 70% report suffering harassment or assault in men’s [x].
Some on the right wing have gone beyond putting LGBT folk at increased risk of attack and murder, and are outright calling for our executions. Pastor Steven Anderson [x], Pastor David Berzins [x], and Pastor Robby Gallaty [x], all openly call for Bible-inspired executions of queerfolk in America, and they’re not alone. At the National Religious Liberties Conference in November 2015, Pastors Kevin Swanson, Philip Kayser, and Joel McDurmon, among others, preached the killing of LGBT Americans to GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal [x], without inciting much criticism or even harming their positions in the presidential race [x].
Elsewhere, American conservatives have a hand in the state-sanctioned deaths of queerfolk, most noticeably in Uganda [x] [x]. American pastor Scott Lively is facing a federal lawsuit for human rights violations as a result [x]. Earlier, he’d also taken credit for the draconian anti-LGBT legislation passed in Russia [x]. These men make no secret of the fact they will not rest until similar legislation exists in America, and in the GOP, they’ve found a sympathetic ear.
The ACLU keeps track of all the anti-LGBT legislation active in American politics [x], but as the events in NC yesterday prove, new laws can be introduced and passed in hours. Such legislation finds an all-too-willing audience in GOP-controlled states, and the turn events took in NC are particularly unsettling because HB2 overrode local ordinances in more liberal pockets of otherwise conservative areas at a time when more and more queerfolk are moving to red states [x].
This social migration initially seems odd — LGBT people are expected to flock to liberal cities such as New York and San Francisco, which have long been considered safe havens. However, the cost of living in those cities has taken its toll, making urban centres in conservative areas (where the cost of living is usually lower) more appealing. Local ordinances provided security even when there were few LGBT protections at state level, but if other states follow NC’s lead and nullify such ordinances, tens of thousands of LGBT people will be left more exposed than ever.
Many people thought SSM was the end of the battle, but I blogged as early as February 2014 the backlash was coming [x], and here it is. GOP frontrunners Trump [x] and Cruz [x] have both promised to overturn the SCOTUS decision legalising SSM if elected president. LGBT rights have become a sharply dividing factor in the 2016 presidential race [x], with Christianity (especially the evangelical Baptist kind) being pitted against basic human rights. Judging by the legislation presented, supported, and passed by the GOP, the only way to keep God happy is to crush LGBT Americans at every turn.