How We're Going to Win Equality in 2016

Group of People Waving Gay Pride Symbol Flags
Group of People Waving Gay Pride Symbol Flags

With barely a moment to take a deep breath, the LGBTQ community is back in the trenches, ready to fight for equality and justice in a critical legislative year. Immediately following a historic victory on marriage, after the balloons and confetti, we faced a tide of anti-LGBTQ attacks. From the infamous religious exemption bill in Indiana to the stinging repeal of Houston's Human Rights Ordinance, it was clear that we could not rest on our laurels. And now we know that in 2016, an emboldened opposition plans to again stir up confusion and fear, especially about transgender people, to build support for even more anti-LGBTQ legislation.

We can't let them win, not after all we have accomplished for freedom and equality.

We must continue the push for fair treatment of all LGBTQ people and our families. But in order to claim victory, we've got to be united and strategic. That's why this week Equality Federation launched our Legislative Action Center. Born out of a need for our under-funded and under-resourced movement to have more resources to combat anti-LGBTQ legislation in their communities, the LAC will help us anticipate committee hearings, floor votes, and other important milestones to prepare advocates for their on-the-ground work to win equality.

It's astounding what our membership -- our partners in the state-based equality movement -- can juggle and accomplish at the same time. Already this year, we know that most of our members are either working to defeat anti-LGBTQ legislation or are working on passing legislation to advance our freedom. Equality Florida is one group accustomed to persevering through a flurry of legislation, good and bad. This year they are working to pass a statewide ban on conversion therapy, pass nondiscrimination protections in Jacksonville, and shut down a "triple threat" bill that would allow businesses, state-funded adoption agencies, and even health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on religious objections.

A new bill in Indiana includes even broader religious exemptions than the infamous law that passed last year. Discriminatory bills that single out transgender people are being fought by Freedom Oklahoma, PROMO in Missouri, Equality Virginia, and Equality South Dakota, among others. PROMO, Equality Ohio, and Equality Pennsylvania are among those working toward passing statewide nondiscrimination protections. And at least twelve states are working on banning anti-LGBTQ conversion "therapies."

New messaging research in combination with our Legislative Action Center enables us to support LGBTQ advocates in targeting the right people, with the right message, at the right time, like never before. However, this work cannot be achieved in a silo. We'll need your help and the help of all our allies when the public is called upon to write letters to the editor, testify, talk to your neighbors, and of course donate. It's up to all of us. Together we can make sure that 2016 will be another monumental year for LGBTQ equality.