OPINION: Examining LGBT Rights Laws

Five municipalities—Chattanooga, Franklin, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville—have anti-discrimination protection for public employees according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Municipal Equality Index report. They also serve as the county seats (respectively) of Hamilton, Williamson, Knox, Shelby and Davidson counties.

Each of those five counties numbers among the 10 (of Tennessee’s 95 total) counties in which more than 36 percent of voters supported Democratic President Joe Biden last year. Three of these other 10 counties comprise parts of the Memphis and Nashville metropolitan areas.

Support for Democrat Biden and social justice and opposition to discrimination come from the best educated adult populations in the Volunteer State. In only 10 counties including these five do more than 28 percent of adults over age 25 have bachelor’s degrees or more.

More educated voters supported Democrat Biden more. In only 20 Tennessee counties do more than 22 percent of the adult population have such college education, and, on average, 35.0 percent of their vote went to Biden. In only 21 counties do fewer than 12 percent of adults have college degrees, and, on average, only 20.8 percent of voters in those counties supported Biden.

Consider what Democratic majorities have accomplished for LGBTQ+ Americans.

  • Virginia: Less than six months after Democrats took control of both houses of Old Dominion’s legislature, Virginia became the first southern state with anti-discrimination protection covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Other states: All 18 of the states with Democrats in control of both houses of their legislatures have inclusive anti-discrimination protection. Minnesota and Iowa enacted such laws when Democrats controlled their legislatures.
  • 111th Congress (2009—2011): When Democrats last controlled both the White and both houses of Congress, they moved LGBT rights forward by leaps and bounds, enacting an inclusive hate crimes law, eliminating the military’s ant-gay discrimination and appointing two Supreme Court justices. With three others they constitutionally acknowledged marriage as a civil right.
  • 116th Congress (2019—2021): Every single House Democrat voted to enact the Equality Act, and 43 Senate Democrats sponsored it.

The Equality Act will nicely supplement SCOTUS’s June 15, 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Unlike Bostock, the coming federal law will cover housing, education, and public accommodations (bars, hotels, bakeries, etc.). By a 6-3 margin the liberal Roberts court—including Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch who authored the majority opinion—supported plaintiff Bostock. The high court applied the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII and reasoned, “Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual [sic] or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making.”

Today Democrats control both houses of Congress once again, and President Biden’s White House has re-affirmed his priority on the Equality Act for his first 100 days.

Our day in the sun is dawning—inevitably.


Photo by Thomas Lin from Pexels

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