As 2016 winds down, we are closer than ever to full equality for the LGBTQ community. And yet, we are also just days away from the start of Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s administration, with a staff and cabinet filled with anti-equality leaders.
We enter 2017 with our eyes wide open, knowing we face some of our toughest challenges in the months and years to come. And yet, our many victories should continue to give us hope. They provide us powerful lessons in how to stand strong in the toughest of climates and continue our march toward full equality.
Let's draw strength from the reality that more LGBTQ people, including young people, continue to share their truth and stories, inspiring hearts and minds to change all over the world. More companies -- both at home and abroad -- are offering fully inclusive benefits to their LGBTQ workers.
Despite the risks in being visible, more people know transgender people -- and support crucial and comprehensive protections for transgender people -- than ever before. Healthcare facilities are becoming more welcoming to LGBTQ people and their families. A growing number of jurisdictions are protecting youth by banning harmful conversion therapy. And that's just the start.
We at HRC thank you for your unflagging support throughout 2016, and now more than ever, ask you to continue to stand with us in 2017 as we work to protect the progress we’ve made, and continue to advance equality for the LGBTQ community.
The visibility of transgender Americans was at the forefront in 2016, most notably in North Carolina where they have been targeted by the vile HB2 law. Elsewhere, their stories resonated with the public, including those we told in our powerful videos, Moms for Transgender Equality and Dads for Transgender Equality. Some parents whose stories we featured in the videos also signed on as members of HRC’s groundbreaking new Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a coalition of the nation’s leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people. These parents, standing shoulder to shoulder with transgender people, will be vital in our continued effort to defend our progress, open hearts, and demonstrate to this country that transgender people are loved and worthy of being treated with dignity and fairness.
One member of the council, Jeanette Jennings, is the mother of Jazz Jennings, whose book, “I Am Jazz,” inspired HRC to help organize communities across the country to hold readings of the book to show support for transgender friends, classmates and loved ones. Following the success of the first reading in Wisconsin a year ago, HRC’s Welcoming Schools program created a guide to help organizers build more affirming and supportive spaces for transgender and gender-expansive children and youth across the country.
The federal government also took historic steps to extend rights to transgender individuals by ending the military’s ban on open service by transgender people.
Perhaps the most visible moment for any transgender American in 2016 came during the Democratic National Convention when HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride took to the main stage and made history as the first transgender person to address a major party convention. Sarah’s poise, strength and eloquence inspired countless people, LGBTQ and not. “Today in America, LGBTQ people are still targeted by hate that lives in both laws and in hearts. Many still struggle just to get by,” McBride said. “But I believe that tomorrow can be different. Tomorrow, we can be respected and protected.”
Creating More Inclusive Workplaces
Corporate leaders are increasingly stepping up to play a leading role in opposing anti-equality legislation — from statehouses to the U.S. Capitol. Through their actions, taken as LGBTQ workers and customers have been facing a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures across the country, business leaders are building on their longstanding commitment to expanding workplace equality for LGBTQ people.
Expanding Equality in the South
Part of HRC’s work to expand equality in the South also means fighting discrimination wherever it exists. In Mississippi, a discriminatory bill, H.B. 1523, would allow almost any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others. Dozens of CEOs and business leaders demanded the bill’s repeal and HRC has co-organized several rallies in opposition to the bill. In June, a federal judge blocked the bill from going into effect, and HRC is now working toward its full repeal.
In neighboring Alabama, HRC set its sights on Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who repeatedly used his position of power to push his own personal religious beliefs, most recently with his efforts to block marriage equality at every turn in the state. HRC Alabama initiated the #NoMoore campaign to remove Moore from the Alabama Supreme Court for his blatant legal and ethical failings, called out Moore’s discriminatory behavior with a billboard in downtown Montgomery, and held rallies and press conferences outside each of Moore’s ethics hearings after charges were officially brought against him. HRC hailed a decision by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to suspend Moore from the bench for the remainder of his term. He is ineligible to run again.
Pushing for the Repeal of North Carolina’s Discriminatory HB2
Following the passage of the hateful HB2 in March, North Carolinians have spoken out time and again to reject the discriminatory law. In November, voters went to the polls overwhelmingly opposed to HB2 and ousted Gov. Pat McCrory -- the only incumbent governor to lose on Election Day. For our part, HRC will continue fighting to defeat the vile law and press on for full protections in Charlotte and across the entire state, no matter what it takes.
Tackling HIV & AIDS
HRC is stepping up its efforts to halt the epidemic of HIV & AIDS, working to end criminalization laws that can send a person living with HIV to prison simply because a partner accuses them of hiding their HIV status. With HIV rates on the rise in some communities, particularly among Latinx and young LGBTQ people of color, we must push for a world where all people can lead healthy, meaningful lives regardless of their HIV status. Another tool we are using in this fight is HRC’s 360° fellowship program for young, nonprofit leaders who are ready to take HIV-inclusive organizations and initiatives to the next level. Made possible with support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, HRC is investing in advocates who are critical in the our fight to end HIV.
Helping LGBTQ Youth
HRC’s third annual Time to THRIVE conference held just outside Dallas featured more than 70 workshops addressing urgent challenges LGBTQ and questioning youth are facing, both in and out of the classroom, and providing educators, counselors, coaches, and other youth-serving professionals the tools they need to help all of our young people thrive.
Speakers & Honorees Included:
Stop the Hate
After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June, the LGBTQ community and our allies came together to support one another as we mourned the loss of the 49 victims. HRC transformed its headquarters in Washington, D.C., into an eight-story memorial featuring images of each victim and the words, “We Are Orlando.”
HRC shared the victims’ stories in the weeks and months after the shooting, vowing that their lives and memories would not be forgotten. Forty-nine celebrities helped amplify this message in a Ryan Murphy-produced tribute video. HRC also turned our grief into action, adopting a resolution to support commonsense gun safety measures.
Thank You, President Obama
HRC is immensely grateful for the progress the LGBTQ community has experienced under the historic leadership of President Obama and his administration. From signing the only pieces of LGBTQ-inclusive legislation to be passed by Congress, to his executive orders protecting LGBTQ workers, he has shown an unwavering commitment to equality. When President Obama addressed the 15th Annual HRC National Dinner in 2011, he said, “Yes, we have more work to do. And after so many years — even decades — of inaction you’ve got every right to push against the slow pace of change. But make no mistake — I want people to feel encouraged here — we are making change. We’re making real and lasting change. We can be proud of the progress we’ve already made.” President Obama’s legacy of progress for the LGBTQ community is unmatched in our nation’s history, and we thank him for standing with us throughout his eight years in office.