June has historically been a vibrant, exciting month for the LGBTQ+ community: Pride month. Parades and banners, however, have been traded in for protests and activism this June, what with the fight for Black Lives Matter and Pride month coinciding. Beautiful displays of LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter solidarity have swept the nation over the past few days, proving the power and presence of both communities in America. Social media has fueled the flame, circulating dozens of uplifting posts for Pride month that stand in solidarity with BLM.
Amidst all the public fanfare and fights for justice, however, the Oval Office has been singing a very different tune. The month of June, on a legislative level, has held highs and lows for the LGBTQ+ community, many of which have continued to stoke the fires of justice. Where Pride month has been a celebration of the diversity of sexuality that exists in America, Trump’s administration has begged to differ. Here’s everything that’s happened in the last few weeks… it’s been quite the month.
A Lose-Lose Situation
Early in the month, one of the first pieces of news to circulate involved adoption agencies… and the rejection of same-sex couples from them. Submitted as a brief to the Supreme Court on June 3rd, the Trump administration argued for the ability of Catholic Social Services in the city of Philadelphia to refuse same-sex couples the right to foster children on the basis of sexual orientation alone. Essentially, the Trump administration filed an argument that could prevent LGBTQ+ couples from fostering children through CSS.
For context, Catholic Social Services is a Philadelphia-based non-profit, comprised of “12 separate 501 (c)3 charitable corporations.” Outwardly, the organizations claim to “administer programs dedicated to serving men, women and children in need” including “residential treatment programs for at-risk children, family preservation services, foster care, adoption, immigration services, counseling, senior citizen centers, programming for the elderly, transitional housing, homeless services and care for medically fragile men and women.” Essentially, they’re an organization that’s committed to serving and caring for various communities in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. So, why then, is the Trump administration filing a brief in favor of the organization’s ability to reject same-sex couples from adopting? Is that not at a disadvantage to both the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia as well as the foster children?
The Trump brief was filed in response to the Fulton V. City Of Philadelphia lawsuit, which was filed by CSS after the City of Philadelphia refused to service their foster system due to CSS’ discrimination against same-sex couples. CSS filed the lawsuit with the claim that the city was infringing upon their First Amendment right to exercise free religion. The case made it to the Supreme Court docket, where it will be reviewed and decided upon in the court’s next session.
So, with all that being said, the U.S. government is stepping into the case on behalf of the CSS through the Trump-filed brief. The issue with this, of course, is that it visually appears as an outwardly discriminatory step against the LGBTQ+ community, even if the case is limited to one foster care system in one American city. The Trump administration’s brief is a clear signal to the LGBTQ+ community and one that both disadvantages the community and the children in the system, should the appeal pass in the court.
One Step Forward, A Thousand Steps Back
Along similar lines, the Trump administration modified, and effectively erased, a set of healthcare protections for transgender individuals on June 12th. In a “final rule” statement delivered by the Department of Health and Human Services, “‘sex’ according to its original and ordinary public meaning refers to the biological binary of male and female that human beings share with other mammals,” and this idea is applied to healthcare. The controversy with this ruling is that the definition of sex is severely limited. When healthcare treatments are based on the biological, binary definition of sex, a whole array of transgender individuals—both transitioning and transitioned—are erased from the healthcare narrative.
The administration’s decision is a tightening up on the specifics of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, applied to healthcare regulations. Title IX prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, and under the Obama administration, Title IX was modified to protect transgender people, broadening the title’s definition of “sex.” The Trump administration’s ruling is, yet again, a visual attack on the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender people. The ruling is set to take effect in healthcare circuits 60 days after its publication, in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis, no less.
The literal president of the US just removed transgender clients’ protections in healthcare during pride month. On the anniversary of Pulse shooting. During a pandemic.
— Weeping Mantis (@MantisEmpress) June 12, 2020
A Rainbow During the Storm
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news for the LGBTQ+ community this June. In a historic decision made on June 15th, the Supreme Court ruled by a 6-3 majority that discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation is unconstitutional and, by federal law, illegal. SCOTUS’s ruling ensures LGBTQ+ protections across the nation, implementing protection of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace in all 50 states. This comes as a huge win where previously, half the nation’s states had no form of workplace protections in place for LGBTQ+ individuals on the basis of sex.
The decision, which spawned from an expansion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was made even more historic due to the breakdown of the court’s ruling. Justices Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts, two conservative-leaning judges, the former a Trump appointee, supported the ruling. The fact that the ruling surfaced at a healthy 6-3 vote indicates a hopeful turning point for the community in America. While there’s no question that LGBTQ+ rights have far to go, there’s optimism in the court’s ruling as well. Millions of individuals across the nation will receive more rights and, hopefully, equality in the workplace and beyond. Apart from the 2015 decision in favor of same-sex marriage, the court’s ruling comes as the greatest protection of LGBTQ+ rights to date. And in the month of June, happy Pride indeed!
Waving the Rainbow Banner High
The LGBTQ+ community fights on. In the face of legislative oppression and discrimination, the community is showing up in full. Petitions, social media movements, and Pride month visibility are all circulating the Internet and physical communities alike. It’s never been easy for LGBTQ+ individuals in America and clearly the fight isn’t over. However, if one thing is for certain, adversity cannot silence the community. LGBTQ+ rights started full-force with a riot, and the community will continue to fight until full equality is reached. So look out, Mr. President.
Photo: Daniel James via Unsplash