Phony gay rights bill throws trans community under the bus in Michigan

There is no question that the victories for marriage equality represent a huge advance for the LGBTQ movement. Two-thirds of the U.S. population now lives in states that permit or recognize same-sex unions. It is wholly possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will compel states that still discriminate against same-sex couples to allow them to marry as well. Polls show that a majority of people in many states support the progress that has been made.

It would be easy, but wrong, to conclude that anti-LGBTQ oppression has been eradicated. For example, only 18 states have laws making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in jobs, housing and public accommodation. Some of those 18 states do not even protect the transgender community; the laws do not cover gender identity or gender expression.

Most states, including those where same-sex marriage is legal, do not give recognition to men and women whose gender identity differs from the gender assigned to them at birth. Even after having surgery, most transgender people cannot get their proper genders listed on a birth certificate, driver’s license, or state ID. The negative ramifications are many; for example, state voter ID laws leave transgender voters disenfranchised.

Bigotry disproportionately impacts trans women of color, who are attacked and murdered on the street.

This disparity of justice under the wide umbrella of the LGBTQ community is potentially divisive. For many years gay-identified moderates failed to stand with the trans community, citing bogus concerns that potential straight allies would be “alienated.”

Now some “moderate” Republicans in Michigan have introduced a phony “non-discrimination” bill to widen the gap between who is legally protected and who isn’t. The bill amends the state civil rights statute known as Elliott-Larsen, passed in 1974, to include “sexual orientation” but not “gender identity/gender expression.”

House Speaker Jase Bolger and Representative Frank Foster introduced the bill just months after an all-inclusive bill was proposed by State House Democrats.

Why not just get behind the original bill? Divide-and-conquer is how the ruling class keeps the working class — or in this case, an oppressed grouping within the working class — from uniting against the capitalist system of exploitation.

Fortunately, Michigan’s LGBTQ advocacy organizations, including the statewide group Equality Michigan, have united in rejecting this sleazy maneuver to divide our community.

“By deciding to leave gender identity and gender expression out of the bill, the sponsors of this bill have handed those who wish to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people a huge gift. … We have no intention of leaving the transgender community behind. We also are faced with the reality [that] today’s glaring omission impacts the entire community. As LGBTQ victim and legal advocates can tell you, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are also fired because of their gender expression, any bill which is not fully-inclusive is inadequate,” stated Emily Dievendorf, the group’s executive director.

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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