LGBTQ people in Jefferson County, the United States, and around the world are breathing a sigh of relief.
Prior to the 2018 U.S. midterms, matters were looking pretty dire for us in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer community. An actively anti-LGBTQ lawyer, Eric Dreiband, had been put in charge of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Justice Department – the most anti-science administration since the reign of Attila the Hun was hell bent on using enforced DNA testing to define transgenders out of existence – and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence, in league with the most extreme wrong wing of the Evangelical Christian movement, were championing “religious freedom” as a tool to restrict rights.
The list of injustices, affronts and absurdities was long, and it kept growing.
When Democrats took control of the House, a major shift occurred. More than 100 LGBTQ candidates have claimed victory (including two governors, a senator, several new members of Congress, and a record number of new state and local legislators), and a true and extremely articulate friend of our community, Nancy Pelosi, is on track to become Speaker of the House.
No longer are the forces for freedom, equality, health care for all, and planetary preservation under house arrest, as it were.
While Republican control of the Senate and presidency means that President Donald J. Trump can continue to try to pack federal judgeships and even the Supreme Court with anti-LGBTQ ideologues, attempt to issue anti-democratic executive orders at an alarming rate, and appoint anti-LGBTQ enemies of freedom such as Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general, anti-LGBTQ legislation is most likely dead in the water. Rather it than us.
According to Mark Segal, a four-decade LGBTQ activist who edits Philadelphia’s award-winning Gay City News, “Approximately 80 percent of the country believes in equality for LGBTQ people, but we are not a protected class like religious groups. Nancy Pelosi, as the expected Speaker, has promised to reintroduce the Equality Act. This is the most important LGBTQ issue of all, and we expect the House to pass it. If the Equality Act passes, teachers can no longer be fired for being LGBTQ, and our seniors can no longer be discriminated against.
“The LGBTQ Victory Fund, National Lesbian Gay Task Force, Lambda Legal and Human Rights Campaign need to help push this legislation forward. If the Equality Act had been law, we probably would have won the wedding cake case that came before the Supreme Court.”
Cynthia Laird, longtime news editor of San Francisco Bay Area Reporter and wife of Victoria Kolakowski, the first elected openly trans judge in the United States, also believes that Democratic control of the House will serve as a check on the Trump administration. Nonetheless, the trans community continues to be in the crosshairs of Republicans in general and the Trump administration in particular.
“I fully expect Trump and his cabinet to push ahead with their real and obvious effort to erase transgender rights and identity,” Laird said by phone. “Pelosi, if she retains power, will be a forceful advocate against this. In addition, the Dems will have subpoena power, and the health committee can call them in and grill them.”
Laird wisely points out that most beneficial LGBTQ proactive policy-making and legislation continues to takes hold on the local level (albeit mainly in urban/liberal areas, according to Paul Schindler, editor-in-chief of New York’s widely read Gay City News).
“Local legislation sometimes trickles up,” Laird said, while pointing to the anti-discrimination victory in Massachusetts and major gubernatorial wins in the Midwest. “Trump will continue to nominate bad judges, and the federal landscape will continue to be a wasteland for a while, but state courts remain an avenue of recourse.”
Locally, LGBTQ residents can rejoice that approximately 83 percent of registered voters – more than 85 percent in Port Townsend – cast ballots in the midterms. Port Townsend City Council members, Jefferson County supervisors, and most residents and faith leaders remain our trusted allies.
Now we must continue to define ourselves openly as proud, responsible and loving beings fully deserving of rights and freedoms. Simultaneously, we must join with our straight allies in opposing efforts to divide our populace on the basis of race, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, national origin and more.
Those who seek power at the cost of freedom cannot be allowed to use fear of the other as a smokescreen for their unfettered greed and evil acts. When we all claim our power and responsibility to unite as one against tyranny, freedom flourishes.
Jason Victor Serinus is a gay rights activist, whistling voice of Woodstock and opera/art song instructor at Peninsula College.