Our community is no stranger to having to fight for our rights. Since before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, LGBTQ+ people have been demonstrating, mobilizing and activating to ensure we have not just a seat at the table, but an equal one. We marked a historic yet unfortunate moment in our quest for equality in May 2023 when the Human Rights Campaign declared a full state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people given the unprecedented level of attacks we’re facing.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 solidifying nationwide marriage equality, our opposition has sought out new ways to undermine our rights. The first major push was around legislation banning transgender people from accessing public bathrooms. We defeated these bills time and time again, proving they only did harm to our community and states as a whole.
As years have gone on, far-right extremists looking to curtail LGBTQ+ people’s rights in every facet of life have not let up. They’ve grown their coffers, gerrymandered districts and mounted massive disinformation campaigns on social media and in the news. Legislation barring trans youth from playing sports with their friends has become a trend, and bans on life-saving, gender-affirming care are a commonplace tactic. Lawmakers are seeking to erase our very existence in classrooms, entertainment spaces and beyond. Unfortunately, this wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation reached a peak this year in legislative sessions nationwide.
By the end of May, we’d witnessed a record 570+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced from coast to coast, with the majority of them attacking transgender and non-binary folks. While successful in most cases, we still had to grapple with the fact that more than 80 of these bills were passed — and that’s just at the time of this article’s publishing. Many states are still entertaining executive actions and special sessions that would keep pushing this anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Beyond losing legal rights and the anguish many in our community are experiencing due to these bills, the lies about our lives are feeding an unprecedented amount of violent anti-LGBTQ+ incidents.
Facing this wave of hate, we decided to not just speak out, but to be louder than ever before. For the first time in the Human Rights Campaign’s more than 40-year history, we declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans. It is one thing to see a bill signed into law, but it is a completely different beast to see its impact on our community. Families are questioning if they can remain in their states or risk losing access to care for their trans youth. Teachers who have devoted their lives to educating our youth are asking if they will lose their jobs simply because they are queer. Our community is in danger, and we need to act.
“There is an imminent threat to the health and safety of millions of LGBTQ+ people and families who are living every day in uncertainty and fear. Our number one priority will always be ensuring that LGBTQ+ people are safe and have the tools they need to defend and protect themselves against acts of hostility, discrimination and — in the most extreme cases — violence,” said Robinson. “It’s also incumbent on our allies across the country to stand with us and make it clear that they won’t sit idly by while extremists attack and malign LGBTQ+ people and our families. We’ll fight tooth and nail to ensure the safety and dignity of every LGBTQ+ person is respected and protected — without exception.”
Despite living in a state of emergency, our community continues to stay resilient. We are still coming together, celebrating ourselves and advocating for our rights. It is more important than ever that we join together to send a clear message: We are not going anywhere.