The Supreme Court decision in late June was a memorable event for the LGBT community in every state. Marriage equality has been our central focus for many years and millions of dollars have been spent towards this effort. We are finally seeing our well-deserved dividend payments from our investments and now the Internal Revenue Service is recognizing same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes.
These victories were achieved by attacking discrimination from many different angles, including the “education angle” which has not only helped the marriage equality initiative but has opened the door for many other important issues. So, let us not forget that winning marriage equality does not mean we have won the LGBT civil rights war.
We are still trailing in the race towards full equality and until we reach the finish line together with all our neighbors, friends and family, we will still need to invest in our community by supporting many of our local, statewide and national non-profit organizations. Surprisingly, some of the most important issues in our community get very little attention including a recent report disclosing that 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school because of their sexual orientation – 25 percent of them reported being physically assaulted.
Most teens that experience bullying of any kind are reluctant to share their experience or report the incident to a teacher or trusted adult. The same report noted that about one third of school staffs did nothing to resolve the issue.
At the opposite age spectrum, SAGE, the national organization providing advocacy and services to LGBT elders, noted that LGBT elders encounter abuse in long-term care settings. They are also less likely to report this abuse for fear of further discrimination. More likely to be single and have no children, their support networks might be smaller and thus less available when incidents of abuse occur. Hostility from residents and staff may cause them to withdraw or be excluded from social activities, thereby increasing social isolation.
Important health issues within our transgender community receive little attention. Those that are fortunate to obtain health insurance may avoid medical care for fear of being rejected by medical facilities and often, health services that they require are not covered by insurance. Recently, a transgender person identifying as a male developed ovarian cancer and when he reached out for treatment, insurance coverage was denied because the application was completed as a male. Awareness of health and insurance issues within the transgender community is critically important in our fight for full equality.
A significant number of employers, and state and local governments have enacted policies and laws to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV status. It is still in existence in the workplace and is still the number one topic of Lambda Legal’s Help Desk calls. Our own state of Florida does not protect employees from discrimination at work based on their sexual orientation although, various municipalities and counties have developed non-discriminatory policies. A recent study by Our Fund found that 21 percent of the LGBT respondents faced discrimination during the past five years at their job or by police/law enforcement because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that same-sex couples were more likely to be discriminated in the housing market. Housing discrimination against LGBT individuals is still legal in many states. The federal Fair Housing Act is silent on prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Only about 20 states and Washington DC have enacted legislation protecting LGBT citizens. You are not protected from housing discrimination in the State of Florida.
These are only a few of the battles that remain to be fought. We must celebrate our victories but we must also keep in mind that winning a battle does not mean we won the war. Yes, it brings us one step closer but lets not forget the times when we have taken steps back. Please consider supporting non-profit organizations that either provide needed services within the LGBT community or continue to fight for our full equality.
Our Fund is a tax exempt non-profit organization with a mission to promote a culture of philanthropy by uniting donors with organizations supporting the LGBT community. Focused on expanding philanthropy in South Florida and working to develop stronger non-profit organizations, South Florida’s only LGBT community foundation has been established to help build endowments that support donor’s charitable interests including organizations providing services throughout the LGBT community.Anthony Timiraos