According to glad.org, a website of legal advocates for and defenders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, less than a third of the United States has state laws offering full protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even fewer in number are the states that completely prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
The queer community has been attacked numerous times this year. The violent shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June, for example, took the lives of 49 people and injured 53 more. Politically, many states, such as Mississippi and North Carolina, are trying to pass laws that discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
Legislators in Georgia attempted to pass the Free Exercise Protection Act in April, which would have allowed religious officials and faith-based organizations to deny services that violate a religious belief. In essence, the bill would have allowed officials to legally deny services to people who identify as LGBT. The state of Georgia received serious backlash, especially from the film industry. Most notably, Disney threatened to pull its upcoming projects from the state. The bill, however, was vetoed by the governor.
In May, President Barack Obama erected the first national monument in support of gay rights across the street from the Stonewall Inn. National monuments are representations of important moments in the history of the United States, so a monument commemorating the gay rights movement would forever immortalize it, while also validating its significance in the story of our country. It was a smart and progressive move to erect a monument that serves as a sign of unity with the LGBT community. Support from the federal government, in any shape or form, is always beneficial to a cause.
But the rights of queer people, especially of those who do not identify as the gender indicated on their birth certificate, are still being threatened across the country. North Carolina in particular, has passed a law mandating that transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds to the indicated sex on their birth certificates. It is painfully obvious that there is still a lot to be done in order to combat anti-LGBT discrimination.
Despite the many instances of injustice and prejudice against the LGBT community, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is sticking up for people who identify as queer. The nonprofit association has pulled seven championship events from North Carolina in protest of the anti-LGBT transgender bathroom laws.
These events are incredibly profitable to the economy of the cities in which they are hosted. Athletes and spectators from around the country flock to these games which showcase the best college athletes. The state would take a serious economic hit if it were to lose out on the honor.
North Carolina GOP spokeswoman Kami Mueller expressed her frustration at the fact that the NCAA pulled out of North Carolina. She said, “The NCAA would bode well to stop their political peacocking and care more about the safety and privacy of athletes across the nation, far more than their profit line.”
But the NCAA is just sticking to its values, which have been clearly defined for years. “The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” said Kirk Schulz, chair of the Board of Governors of the NCAA. “So it is important that we assure that community—including our student-athletes and fans—will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.” The NCAA has also in the past refused to host in states where the government displayed the Confederate battle flag or where there was an display of abusive imagery toward Native Americans.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper responded in defense of the NCAA saying, “We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.” Cooper is completely right. The teams themselves may not be affected—the games are just scheduled to be relocated to cities that fit the NCAA’s standards of basic human decency—but the state as a whole will forever be marred by this shameful legislation.
It is sad to see the discrimination that still abounds in the United States and around the world. The type of discrimination does not matter. There is no place for any of it in modern society. Members of the LGBT community are being treated like a group of second-class citizens. The NCAA should be applauded for sticking to its core beliefs and protecting them. It is long past time to start fighting back against those who steal others’ rights.