by Mark Segal
(Mark Segal is the founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. The following piece originally appeared last month in the newsletter of News Is Out: A pioneering national collaborative of the leading local queer news publishers. News Is Out can be found at newsisout.com. The piece appears here with permission.)
Nobody understands the LGBTQ community like LGBTQ media. Bringing people the news and opinions from our various local LGBTQ publications is what News Is Out is all about. We show you the beating heart of what drives and impacts LGBTQ people. We inform you of your rights and alert you to those trying to take those rights away. Recently, those rights teetering on the ledge include your health, employee benefits, nondiscrimination in housing, public accommodations and even employment and education.
The LGBTQ community is under attack and only LGBTQ media covers it regularly and with the urgency that is required. We are in a constant state of alarm because of the attacks coming from all sides. Here are just a few examples.
If you’re a PrEP user, as many in our community are, a recent ruling by a U.S. District Judge in Texas ruled that some companies may not be required to cover the cost of PrEP as part of their medical health insurance employee benefits policy. It ties into the religious belief argument, similar to the wedding cake makers and photographers who refuse to work with same-sex couples. But even scarier in this case is the idea that a company can deny preventative care based on religious beliefs. How long before blood pressure or diabetes medications are on the chopping block?
Along the same religious freedom lines, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Catholic Church can fire an LGBTQ employee if they marry their same-sex partner. That adds to the discriminatory actions of the Church, which has also refused to allow LGBTQ parents to foster or adopt children, and which has a long history of bringing harm to people with HIV/AIDS.
LGBTQ students are under attack from schools and universities. Yeshiva University, which primarily serves Jewish students, has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that it does not have to recognize an LGBTQ student organization. A Federal Circuit Court in California ruled that a high school must reinstate an anti-LGBTQ religious club. If you guessed, its view on LGBTQ people is why it was suspended in the first place. And in Nebraska, a school board closed down a high school student-run, award-winning newspaper because it simply wrote articles and editorials about LGBTQ issues. In Wisconsin, another school board banned Pride flags. And we could write numerous editorials on the plight of trans students seeking to play sports.
Trans people not only have to deal with discrimination in education but in health care. The U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling barring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from using the anti-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to protect transgender people from discrimination by health providers and insurance companies.
A U.S. District Judge in Kentucky ruled that parts of the nondiscrimination law of Louisville should be limited. His ruling stated that the city’s law against businesses not being allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation does not apply to businesses whose owners have religious beliefs opposed to, let’s make this clear, the entire LGBTQ population. A similar federal lawsuit against an LGBTQ nondiscrimination law is taking place in Michigan and it was filed by Christian Healthcare Group, an insurance company.
And in many states, the upcoming midterm election has actually put LGBTQ rights on the ballot and on political TV ads due to some candidates stating that if elected, they would do away with their state’s same-sex marriage laws.
Trying to push back against all this discrimination sounds daunting and it is, but there are ways you can be a part of these battles. First, support the organizations that go to court and fight for your rights, such as Lambda Legal, and organizations that put people on the ground, such as Human Rights Campaign. Support those that look to make a better future for LGBTQ people. Educate yourself on and support LGBTQ candidates for those school boards, city councils, state representatives, and U.S. Congress and Senate. If you’re unsure how to find those people, look to The Victory Fund and Victory Institute. And there are so many other organizations, too. We can take great pride in the community we have built since Stonewall. That community and those organizations are defending the rights we gained in those 50 some years. All they need is our help to sustain that effort.