In Spite of Indiana, There’s Good News for the LGBT Community

Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

With events in Indiana casting such a storm cloud over the rights and lives of so many in the LGBT community, there are a couple more encouraging governmental acts on the horizon. Let’s take a look at a few legal and political changes and improvements to the national LGBT atmosphere.

Workplace discrimination

President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination is a small step in a more positive direction. While the order was made in July of last year, it didn’t go into effect until April 8, 2015. The order disallows federal contractors or subcontractors from discrimination “on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” and gives “new legal protects designed to ensue they are judged by the quality of their work, not who they are or whom they love.”

The order creates a legal framework with which employees can root out and seek relief from prejudice, and while previously there was a law in place against sexual orientation discrimination at the federal government, gender identity had not been included until recently. To herald in the new changes, the White House held a Tumblr question and answer session, and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez made a statement. “Protecting the workplace rights of LGBT workers is a moral imperative. Equality under the law means equality under the law for everyone,” Perez said. “It means standing up for our LGBT colleagues, ensuring that careers aren’t derailed or livelihoods ruined for reasons having nothing to do with skill or ability. It means, simply, opportunity for all.” He did emphasize the need for legislative action to broaden the span of this protection to organizations outside the federal government, but ultimately the action is a marked success for protection of rights.

Conversion therapy

The Obama administration responded to a petition on its “We the People” part of the White House web page, which allows citizens to create petitions and gather signatures and attention for different issues. The petition had to do with conversion therapy — a therapy used by some mental health treatment providers to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a LGBT individual. The treatment has questionable moral grounds and highly problematic effects which have been looked into by many different groups and researchers.

The White House responded to the petition, which has a total of 120,958 signatures so far, supporting the effort to legally ban conversion therapy. “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically or ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” stated the response. “We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth.”

From a legal stand point, the support means very little; only states or Congress have the legal ability to ban conversion therapy. But the official response helps to draw attention to the issue and bring it back up for consideration.

New heights in the polls

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, nearly six out of 10 Americans support same-sex marriage. The poll shows 59% of respondents support allowing same-sex marriages, with only 33% opposing. This is an increase of six percentage points from 2013 when 53% were in favor of gay marriage, and 42% opposed the option.

When considering a 2016 presidential candidate, the poll also showed that 39% said they were viewed candidates either much more favorably or somewhat more favorably if they support same-sex marriage, compared to the 29% who said the opposite, and the 31% who felt it made no difference. That shows a definite advantage for leaders who are supportive of the LGBT community, which can only serve to boost political support.

Brief from conservatives

Finally, there is a brief being filed to the Supreme Court on behalf of political conservatives who support same-sex marriage. These include a wide variety of individuals, including a former White House chief of staff (Ken Duberstein) and two former Mitt Romney senior advisers (Beth Myers and Carl Forti).

One advocate of the brief, Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee chairman, told the Washington Post that he thinks “the diversity of the people [signatories] is a reflection of what we have seen, which is increased support in every demographic” for same-sex marriage.

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