Congressman Pappas Op-Ed: Our Uneven March Towards Equality

June 19, 2019
In The News

The op-ed is also available at The Hill by clicking here.

 

Our Uneven March Towards Equality

On June 28, 1969 a group of young LGBTQ individuals walked into the Stonewall Inn, a safe haven for our community at a time when queer lifestyles were criminalized. They were unaware their resistance would catalyze a movement that has carried us to this day.

In the 50 years since Stonewall, millions of Americans have come out and told their stories, often at great personal risk. Coming out and living openly has done more to change hearts, minds and laws than anything else.

Although we continue to gather every June to recognize their courage and the tremendous strides we have made, we must not overlook that transgender individuals — who threw the first bricks at Stonewall — have been left behind on our uneven march towards equality.

Over the last two years, the divisive policies of President Trump and his administration have targeted the trans community and spread unfounded fears. Their sustained efforts have sought to end their careers, take away their health care, and even define them out of existence.

The Department of Defense has instituted a ban on transgender service members serving openly in our military, turning its back on an estimated 150,000 veterans and active service members who are on duty today keeping our nation safe.

The Department of Health and Human Services is revoking coverage for critical health services, leaving 1.4 million transgender Americans in jeopardy of being denied the care they need to pursue healthy, productive lives.

The Department of Education has rescinded protections for transgender students, putting at risk roughly 150,000 transgender students, 80 percent of whom face harassment in their schools.

Furthermore, the administration proposed a rule that would allow federally-funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender individuals looking for a safe place to lay their heads at night, solely because of who they are.

No one should be a second-class citizen in the United States. These policies violate the rights and dignity of our fellow Americans and betray the bedrock values we hold dear.

I don’t believe the attacks we are seeing from this administration are consistent with the inclusivity, decency, and fundamental fairness that are exhibited by the constituents I represent — or by Americans more broadly.

I am proud to be one of the eight out LGBTQ members serving in the House, the largest contingent ever. That’s matched by a solid majority of unwavering allies — all Democrats and a few Republicans — who must continue to be a bulwark for LGBTQ rights at this critical moment.

In May this bipartisan, pro-equality majority passed landmark legislation to ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in housing, employment, and public services. The Equality Act awaits action in the Senate, and it’s long past the time to give full federal legal protection to all Americans regardless of who they are or who they love.

A flurry of other bills have been filed in response to the administration’s discriminatory policies. I am working to continue to build support for the SERVE Act which will ensure all who serve our country receive the health care benefits they have earned, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

We have work to do, but I believe our allies in Congress and the American people are prepared to get us back on the path toward progress.

This month, as a sea of rainbows wash over Main Streets in big cities and small towns, we should celebrate how far we’ve come and honor the heroes on whose shoulders we stand. But we must also recommit ourselves to living up to our nation’s values and the hard work that it entails to make our union more perfect. We must never stop fighting until all Americans are free to live their truth.

 

Congressman Chris Pappas serves New Hampshire’s 1st District as his state’s first openly-gay member and is a co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.