1. Adoption and parental rights
There has been extensive research showing that same-sex parenting has no adverse effects on the development of a child. Some research has even shown the positive aspects of being raised by LGBT parents. The limitation here is that the positivity probably has more to do with the education levels and financial security of the LGBT parents, rather than the fact that the parents are LGBT.
In terms of policy, there are several issues related to parental rights. Double parent adoption, single-parent adoption and parental rights of biological, adoptive and stepchildren are all issues that LGBT families face. Generally, family courts make their decisions on parental rights, regardless of family composition, on a case-by-case basis. Anti-LGBT activists have sought to go around family courts by passing policies that ban same-sex adoption of any kind — despite the fact that every authority figure on child welfare has deemed that sexual orientation has nothing to do with parental ability.
While LGBT parental rights generally fall under States rights, several presidential candidates have voiced vocal opposition to LGBT parents. Of the presidential candidates, Marco Rubio is the most vocally opposed, stating that “children shouldn’t be part of a social experiment.”
This is a big LGBT issue because of the intersections between LGBT identity and immigrant status. Stories of LGBT immigrants are often excluded from the mainstream dialogue. Many LGBT people, particularly transgender people, leave their home countries to avoid discrimination. Being LGBT is illegal in 83 countries, and it’s punishable by death in five. Some LGBT immigrants were able to marry their partners after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, but this doesn’t impact the thousands of people who are not in relationships or in relationships with other immigrants. Clinton, O’Malley and Sanders all support reforming a pathway for immigration.
3. Police brutality
The LGBT community is not cookie-cutter. We come from all different backgrounds and cultures. Therefore, it’s our collective responsibility to speak up for all at risk communities whose lives have been put in danger by groups of authority.
Amnesty International’s groundbreaking report, Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] People in the U.S., found that verbal abuse and harassment are routine amongst law enforcement. As are a range of discriminatory practices from selective enforcement of the law — such as profiling gay men as public-sex offenders and transgender women as prostitutes — to selective non-enforcement during investigations of hate crimes and domestic violence. These discriminatory practices are compounded for LGBT people of color. Oppression is the root of all isms, LGBT people should stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists and support the candidates whose policies aim to break down racist institutions.
4. Non-discrimination protections and the Equality Act
Here’s an interesting fact: it’s actually legal to discriminate against LGBT people in most U.S. states. The Equality Act is an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If the act is passed it would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in all 50 states. Discrimination in housing, public education, employment and credit are still rampant in the United States. While some states have policies banning this kind of discrimination, 31 do not have full protection.
The levels of enforcement also vary widely state to state. A federal policy would supercede state and local discriminatory laws. Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley have publicly voiced their support for the Equality Act. Trump has been the only Republican to answer direct questions in support of The Equality Act, but he said that he supports a federal nondiscrimination policy only on the basis of sexual orientation. This is of course problematic because of the number of transgender and gender nonconforming people in the LGBT community. They wouldn’t be protected. Rubio, Fiorina, Carson, Bush, Cruz, Huckabee, and Rand Paul all have made statements against nondiscrimination protections.
5. Marriage equality
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land. Despite this historic ruling, challenges to equal marriage have popped up all over the U.S. since it happened — from wedding vendors refusing to accept LGBT customers to Kim Davis becoming the poster child for anti-LGBT politicians. Basically, we still have work to do. Marriage equality is an incredible milestone in the journey towards LGBT civil rights, but it’s not the end of the movement. Many people across the US are still uncomfortable with LGBT people in their communities, and discrimination against individuals and couples is rampant.
6. Faith, religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Despite common stereotypes in the media, LGBT equality is not universally opposed by faith leaders and religious people. There are actually many LGBT affirming religious voices in the mainstream media. Despite the intersections of LGBT identity and religious affiliation, some people are trying to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to sidestep anti-discrimination policies. Individuals and businesses have stated that LGBT discrimination falls under their religious freedoms, and these cases are coming up with more frequency.
Religious exemptions of this kind are troublesome because of the amount of LGBT people who are dependent on the community work that religious organizations tend to conduct. Salvation Army is a great example. They do wonderful work for at-risk communities, but their policies are openly LGBT discriminatory. This is especially problematic when there are limited resources for at-risk populations and the majority of funding goes to anti-LGBT religious organizations.
7. Transgender rights
According to GLAAD, 16% of Americans say they know a transgender person and 87% of Americans know someone who is LGB. Most Americans can read about policies related to LGB people and compare it to their own personal experiences with the LGB people in their lives.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible for cisgender people with no frame of reference for transgender people. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, are the most at-risk class of people in the United States — 50% of LGBT hate crime victims in the U.S. are transgender women of color. Also, as a result of employment discrimination, transgender people make an average annual salary of just $10,000 — that’s four times the poverty rate. Trans Americans are often left behind when it comes to policy advancements proposed on behalf of the LGB community. Bernie Sanders has put forth the most effort in inclusion of transgender Americans in policy and has tweeted his support for trans-specific issues.