June marks the celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTQ) pride month. The significance of holding it in June is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots when New York City Police raided the Stonewall bar in Greenwich Village. The police had routinely raided gay establishments, but after this episode, demonstrations erupted, drawing attention to the mistreatment of the gay community. Some have described the Stonewall incident as the “cradle” of the LGBTQ movement. Last week, after almost 50 years, New York’s Commissioner of Police apologized.
“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” said James O’Neill, in a news report. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”
Sexual identity and preferences are a matter of individual choice. And in the larger context of society, it is a matter of equality. Our laws should, indeed must, protect all citizens regardless of sexual preference or gender identity.
That’s why I have introduced several pieces of legislation that protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. We often hear that words matter. They do. But what matters equally are the actions behind the words. That is why these bills are so important, not just for those under the LGBTQ orbit but for all Americans. If you protect the rights of one group, you are protecting the liberty of all.
My bills include:
- Senate Bill No. 3484. This bill would establish certain requirements of LGBTQ and HIV-positive residents of long-term care facilities. The concern for members of this community is that they would face discrimination as they age. Older members of the LGBTQI community have significant concerns about being discriminated against as they age, especially when seeking long-term care services and support. Our aging population deserves to know that their civil rights will be protected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And this bill establishes guidelines for long-term care facilities and penalties if they do not enforce the protections. For example, all facilities would prominently display a notice that they do not discriminate or permit discrimination.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 84. This bill urges the federal government to rescind the proposed rule and not establish a Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This bill responds directly to President Donald Trump’s plans to overhaul the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. This effort would allow “health care workers to not provide services to individuals if those services are in conflict with the health care workers’ own individual religious beliefs.” I oppose this approach because it promotes “ideals which foster discriminatory activities which could prevent individuals from accessing quality health care.”
- Senate Resolution No. 77. This legislation would issue a Senate resolution expressing opposition to Trump’s decision to prohibit individuals who are transgender from serving in the military. My bill notes that it is a “dangerous policy to base eligibility for military service on factors unrelated to fitness and ability to serve and an affront to all transgender individuals who proudly and dutifully commit themselves to such service.”
The LGBTQ community has been a perennial victim of unlawful and unfair discrimination. In recent years, there has been some progress in accepting them for who they are and in preventing them from being targets because of their sexual orientation.
Yet, we must remain vigilant. We must continue to ensure — and the legislative process is an important weapon — that equality applies to the LGBTQ community. Also, we must scrutinize any actions that would resurrect practices that could lead to a renewal of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
That’s my take, what’s yours?