As we approach the end of the year, I have seen a seemingly endless stream of online chatter about the darkness brought by 2020. And while many of these conversations are rightfully filled with sadness, fear, and anger, I also urge us all to reflect on and cherish the bright spots of the year.
A personal high for me and so many Americans came in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination. It’s a landmark victory, and it gives me both hope and resolve for the work ahead. The fact is that despite the step forward on employment, LGBTQ people in most states, including here in my own home state of Michigan, remain vulnerable to discrimination in vital areas of life, such as housing, healthcare, and public spaces like restaurants and businesses.
I was also pleased in November to see Americans unite in record numbers for a president and vice president who have been strident supporters of dignity and respect for all LGBTQ people. When Joe Biden is inaugurated, he will be the most vocal champion LGBTQ people have ever seen in the White House.
My prayer for this holiday season, and hope for 2021, is that we continue these steps forward. We need to finish the evolution for respect, dignity, and equality for LGBTQ Americans that the Supreme Court accelerated in June. The best way to do that is to achieve what President-Elect Biden has called for: passage of comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections at the federal level.
Anti-LGBTQ discrimination is an urgent problem. Addressing it will transform us as a nation for the better. As a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, I hear stories from congregation members about how they’ve personally been mistreated because of their LGBTQ identity. They speak about how the fundamental values of their faith, including loving your neighbor as yourself, compel them to support LGBTQ protections.
A lot remains up in the air – including two key seats in the U.S. Senate, which will determine partisan control of the Senate overall. January’s special election in Georgia is the last piece of the puzzle for what 2021’s national politics have in store. But regardless of the Senate makeup, President-Elect Biden has committed to pushing for an end to anti-LGBTQ discrimination. I encourage him to take decisive executive action early, including reversing many of the anti-LGBTQ rollbacks that the Trump Administration pursued over the past four years.
But I also want to see federal lawmakers from across the political spectrum – Republican and Democrat alike – come together to pass federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Across the country, 72% of Americans say they support LGBTQ protections, including 61% of Republicans, 71% of Independents, and 81% of Democrats.
I do not believe this a partisan issue or about one faith tradition. This is about dignity and respect for all. After one of the most divisive political seasons we have endured, I urge all lawmakers, regardless of their party or religious conviction, to put forth legislation that would protect all their constituents. Please do not send a message that only those who you agree with are worth saving.
2020 has been undergirded by such deep pain, with challenge after challenge piling on top of us: the pandemic, the long overdue reckoning for racial inequality, our political system’s paralyzing polarization. And the outcome of so many of these challenges has been confusion about the pathway forward.
As we grapple with these existential questions, I take small solace in knowing that the path toward justice for LGBTQ people is not confusing. We know the answer: We must pass comprehensive nondiscrimination federal protections for all LGBTQ people. Passing this baseline of protection for every American, no matter where they live, no matter who they are or who they love, is one key step. We must never lose sight of a future where LGBTQ people are included – and where all our people can thrive.
Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow