For defenders of equity and human dignity, it’s been a good couple of weeks.
A COUNTRY PIVOTS TOWARDS FAIRNESS
President Biden signed an Executive Order Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. This positive step establishes the new administration’s posture towards ending entrenched discrimination in our country, and directs the levers of government to take affirmative steps towards securing parity (enforcing the June 2020 decision of Bostock v. Clayton County throughout all federal agencies). In Bostock, the Supreme Court held that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of . . . sex” covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. After Bostock was decided, several federal agencies, including the United States Department of Education, sought to diminish Title VII by arguing it didn’t apply in controversial matters, such as sex-separated bathrooms, locker rooms and athletic teams. That myopic and cowardly view shouldn’t stand, and thankfully this administration concurs.
STATES FOLLOW SUIT
More recently, The Florida Commission on Human Rights (FCHR) issued a ruling, introduced by a former Board Member from my organization, Commissioner Monica Cepero, protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination at the state level. The FCHR formal decided that it will begin investigating complaints about sex-based discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations which is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation just as the Bostock case did. This is particularly momentous given Florida’s history of questionable policies towards diverse communities, and a legislature that often prioritizes conservative values over individual liberties.
THE FIGHT MUST GO ON, THE WORK CONTINUES
Although we should celebrate these positive developments and acknowledge progress as it comes, this is not a time to grow complacent. Unfortunately, Executive Orders can be easily overturned by future administrations. To ensure LGBT people are permanently protected from discrimination, we need to codify these policies into Florida law by passing a statewide non-discrimination ban that includes protections for the LGBT community. We must also push against hate and prejudice in other areas such as banning the dangerous practice of conversion therapy and modernizing our HIV disclosure laws.
The organization for which I work, Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE), is committed to doing its part. We know it’s important, and nobody said this work would be easy. During Black History Month, we remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Orlando Gonzales is the executive director of SAVE.