LGBT activists optimistic going into 2011
With the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers on its way to becoming a thing of the past, many LGBT activists’ moods have been deservingly lifted.
As the 111th Congress draws to a close, however, many activists anticipate the hard-fought repeal of
"don’t ask, don’t tell" will quite possibly be the last major LGBT milestone at the federal level until at least after the 2012 presidential election.
Despite the roadblocks ahead, however, activists in many parts of the country have already begun to look within their own state’s borders for opportunities to advance much needed protections in schools, workplaces, housing and relationship recognition for their LGBT constituents. In a bit of a twist on the traditional narrative, action is even expected in many states not typically lauded for their leadership on LGBT issues.
Despite the widely blogged reports of the state’s Republican Party’s platform advocating for criminalizing marriage for same-sex couples earlier this year, Texas activists are hopeful for advances in the coming year, most notably in the area of anti-bullying legislation. While the state’s current laws do not explicitly protect LGBT youth in schools, at least seven bills that would do exactly that have been pre-filed for consideration in the coming legislative session.
A poll released last week found 79.2 percent of respondents back the proposed legislation. More than 75 percent of respondents said they support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination, while 69.7 percent said they back trans-specific measures. And 63 percent of respondents said they support allowing gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.
"We have found the results to be very encouraging," said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas; adding his state is not as backwards as one may perceive-Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns are among the country’s most visible out legislators. "A lot of positive things have always been happening here in Texas so for us it’s never been a surprise. We definitely see we’re moving in the right direction. There’s a lot of real progress taking place within our state."
Utah activists have adopted a strategy that focuses on employment and housing non-discrimination ordinances. And they have scored victories in Park City and Logan and in Salt Lake and Summit Counties. The state’s heavily influential Church of Latter-Day Saints backed Salt Lake City’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. And the Salt Lake City School Board voted last month to expand their bullying and hazing policy to specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, hopes to see statewide workplace and housing protections for the state’s LGBT residents by 2012. She vowed to continue her organization’s groundwork of getting those protections and improving school policies for LGBT youth at the municipal and county level.