Equal rights are the bedrock of The United States. Yet from racial equality to gender and LGBT equality, so many Americans have spent their lives fighting for the freedom to live without discrimination. While we still have a long way to go, this country has made progress toward real, unconditional equality that's worth celebrating.
Today, as the NYC Pride March takes place, we want to acknowledge the milestones in equal rights that we've reached since last year's march, and express our gratitude and appreciation for everyone who fought to make them happen. So here's a timeline of the biggest victories in the war on discrimination in the past year.
1. (June 24, 2016) The Stonewall National Monument was designated by Barack Obama as the first national LGBT rights monument.
On June 28, 1969, the community uprising in response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn (one of the few establishments which then welcomed openly gay people) catalyzed equal rights activism on a never-before-seen scale and sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the U.S. On June 24, 2016, President Obama spoke out about Stonewall's impact, saying:
“’Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”
2. (June 30, 2016) The Pentagon lifts the ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy was ended in 2011, and in 2015, the Family Medical Leave Act was extended to cover all legally married same-sex couples. The removal of the ban on transgender people serving openly is a powerful step forward, as this rule was one of the last barriers to any individual wanting to serve in the military. Crucially, transgender service members will also receive the same medical coverage as any other military member—receiving all medical care that their doctors deem necessary, including hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery. According to a RAND survey cited by the Pentagon, up to 11,000 transgender active duty service members and reservists will be impacted by this decision.
3. (August 5-21, 2016) A record number of out athletes competed at the Rio Olympic Games.
Human Rights campaign estimates that 43 out athletes participated in the Rio Olympics, while Outsports puts the number at 55. Either way, it's a staggering uptick from the 23 out Olympians present at the London Games. The Rio Games also mark the first time a transgender model participated in the Opening Ceremony. Brazilian model Lea T rode into the Maracana stadium on a bicycle featuring Brazil's name on it, ahead of the host team. LGBT analyst Charley Walters, who's covered the past eight games, said he hopes that over time the labels will cease to matter, and that every Olympian can just be "one more athlete."
4. (November 9, 2016) Kate Brown was sworn in as governor of Oregon, becoming the highest-ranking openly LGBT person in a U.S. elected office.
When the former governor, John Kitzhaber, resigned due to a criminal investigation, former secretary of state Brown took over the governorship without an election. In November she won the election, which puts her in office for the remaining two years of Kitzhaber's term. Brown, who was outed as bisexual in the '80s, embraced her identity once it became public. Brown told the Washington Blade,
"If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there's someone like them in the world, it's worth it."
5. (January 31, 2017) The Alan Turing amnesty law received Royal Assent, posthumously pardoning 50,000 British men (including Oscar Wilde).
The Alan Turing law, passed as part of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, pardoned British men who had been convicted of now-abolished sexual offenses after their deaths. The famed codebreaker and father of the computer, Turing himself was convinced of gross indecency in 1952. Turing died in 1954 and wasn't pardoned until 2013. Turing was one of many men not only reviled but convicted as a criminal because of his sexual identity. In addition to the 50,000 posthumous pardons given symbolically, the law allows 15,000 living men to apply to the Home Office for a pardon.
6. (April 4, 2017) The 7th District Court of Appeals ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees in the workplace.
Kimberly Hively sued Ivy Tech Community College when they denied her a job, arguing that it was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dissenting judges argued that, although being denied a job because of her sexual orientation was unjust, it did not fall under the protection of Title VII, which protects against discrimination based on gender. The appeals court finally ruled that "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination." A lawyer for the legal group that brought the case said,
"This decision is a game-changer for lesbian and gay employees facing discrimination in the workplace and sends a clear message to employers: it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation."