Last month, Donald Trump became our nation’s 45th president.
This is not the result that I hoped for. It’s certainly not the result that most LGBT Rhode Islanders hoped for.
But it is the result of our electoral system in action. And it means that, now more than ever, all of us will have to keep fighting to preserve the progress we have made, especially on the issue of LGBT equality. We can’t afford to take a single step back.
Today, opponents of LGBT equality are feeling more empowered than they have in years. Hundreds of bills were introduced at the state and local levels over the last two years to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. Vice President Mike Pence, who once said that same-sex marriage would lead to “societal collapse,” is now making his presence felt by pushing for new anti-LGBT executive orders.
But at the same time, millions of Americans are getting involved and getting organized like never before. I was proud to join thousands of Rhode Islanders last month in both Washington and Providence for the Women’s March. And I’m continually amazed by the dozens of calls and e-mails my office receives each day encouraging me to keep fighting.
That’s why, in the weeks ahead, I will reintroduce the Equality Act, my bill to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community in public accommodations, housing, employment, federal funding, education, credit, and jury service. And I’m going to continue fighting until it becomes law.
The Equality Act affirms a basic principle – that fairness and equality are core American values. It’s an ideal that has guided our nation since its founding days. It hasn’t been easy. The process has been fraught with setbacks and obstacles. But over the years we have always moved towards ensuring that all Americans are equal in the eyes of the law.
That’s why most Americans would be surprised to hear that in many states a gay couple could be married on Saturday, post photos of their wedding on Sunday, and then be fired on Monday for no reason other than the fact that they’re gay. Laws that allow discrimination against LGBT people in employment, access to public places, housing, and other core areas of their lives run against our fundamental understanding of what it means to be American.
And it’s not just a betrayal of our values ~ Laws that permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are having a devastating impact. Here are the facts:
~ One out of every 10 lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers have been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation ~ 63% of LGBT Americans will experience discrimination at some point in their lives ~ 56% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced discrimination trying to get health care and 70% of transgender Americans report the same ~ 82% of LGBT students report that they’ve been verbally harassed, 38% have been physically harassed, and 64% have felt unsafe at school
These figures are staggering.
Discrimination, bigotry, and intolerance should have no place in the United States of America in 2017, regardless of who the President is. It’s long past time for Congress to finally stand up and make it illegal to discriminate against someone because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
I’m proud that Democrats and Republicans are standing with me in this effort, and I will continue fighting until leaders in Congress are compelled to take action.
If Republicans are serious about being the party of opportunity for all Americans, then it’s time for their actions to match their words.
And if they don’t think that LGBT Americans are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, then they should admit that. But the reality is that history will not kindly judge those who remained silent as millions of LGBT Americans were treated as less than equal.
This is a critical time in our nation’s history. This is not a time for sitting on the fence. It is a time for leadership. It is a time to affirm our belief in fairness and equality for all Americans.
I look forward to continuing to work with you, and all Rhode Islanders who are ready to stand up and fight for full LGBT equality.
Donald Trump may be our 45th President, but for the next four years I will make sure that he hears your voice loud and clear.
As former President Obama reminded our nation last month, the work of democracy is always hard. Our forward progress is often uneasy and even fraught with peril.
But I am confident that with your help, we will persevere through these challenging times and preserve the progress we have fought so hard to achieve.