Jul 27, 2014

LGBT Democrats of VA Join Equality Rally in DC

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On June 30th, I had the honor to stand with LGBTQ Activists from across the country to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to demand that Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity be added to all the protections of this act. It is time for FULL LEGAL EQUALITY!

It was a humbling experience, standing there in the shadow of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, across the basin from the Jefferson Memorial, with these activists and demand that the United States Government “Add the 4 Words”, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, to the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964, has made a great difference in the lives of the African American community, but the dream of equality will not be fulfilled until all have access to full legal equality. King recognized that none are free until all are free: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Obviously, there is still work to be done in regards to full access to equal opportunity even for African Americans, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at least gives legal recourse when things aren’t equitable. LGBTQ Americans deserve the same Legal Equality. LGBTQ youth deserve to know that their country protects them; they need to feel they have hope and that suicide is not an option. Our LGBTQ Elders, the generation that led the LGBTQ Civil Rights fight, deserve to feel they have protections so that they won’t feel like they must hide when seeking care as they age, so that they don’t also feel hopeless and that suicide is the only option. We all deserve to have our relationships recognized, to be able to feel secure in our jobs, in housing, and in all areas of our lives. The inequalities that exist today, the societal legacy of discrimination, is not just destructive, but it is also a health crisis.

“It’s time all LGBT Americans were afforded the same rights granted our fellow citizens,” said J. Todd Fernandez, the organizer of the rally. “Including LGBT Americans in the 1964 Civil Rights Act is the most direct way to counter the harms caused by anti-gay societal discrimination.”
This is not going to be an easy fight. There are still too many people who don’t support our right to equality and protections. This should not be a partisan fight, but, unfortunately, it is. We must step up and speak up wherever we are safe doing so: in our families, in our communities, in our churches, and to our representatives. We must elect representatives that will speak up and stand up for us, who will support legislation to protect the LGBTQ community. I acknowledge that legal equality will not change the hearts and minds of people who are committed to discrimination, but it will make it less acceptable to publicly stand up for inequality.
At a symposium on Civil Rights in 1972, at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, a month before his death, Johnson spoke about the dream that hadn’t yet been achieved. I believe these words still echo with truth today. “Our objective must be to assure that all Americans play by the same rules, and all Americans play against the same odds. Who among us would claim that that is true today? We have proved that great progress is possible. We know how much still remains to be done. And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”

As a representative of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, I had the opportunity to stand up and speak up at the rally. The LGBT Democrats of Virginia signed the Equality Pledge last year and invite other LGBTQ groups and our allies to sign the Pledge to support the demands for Full Legal Equality. You can find the pledge at: http://www.actonprinciples.org/thepledge/.