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NEWS

LGBTQ+ Grapple With a New Political Reality

During  2022 midterm elections season, LGBTQ+ Americans found themselves an interesting dichotomy:  More LGBTQ candidates had a place on the ballot, even as the Supreme Court moved to roll back decades of political and social gains

On Election Day, voters in Nevada voted on whether to amend the state constitution, adding language “specifically guaranteeing that equality of rights under the law” should be extended to everyone no matter sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. In Oregon voters determined whether the state should ensure every resident has a fundamental right to access cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care. The bill, if passed, would include access to gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary people. Residents of Multnomah County, Oregon, will be asked to consider a vote: Should the county charter be amended to replace gender binary pronouns with gender-neutral terms?

The LGBTQ Victory Fund’s Out on the Trail report found that more candidates identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community are on the ballot this year than ever. In fact, 678 LGBTQ+ candidates are running for office this year, an 18.1 percent increase from 574 in 2020.

“It makes me feel good,” Tyler Moser, a chemical engineering student at Howard, said . Moser, who identifies as bisexual, believes it is importance that queer people are represented in government. 

“[When] there’s more people who I can relate to, who kind of know my experience or some of it and know what I’m going through…It’s a good thing to have that representation for something so meaningful,” Moser said.

Howard student Maya Berthoud said it would give her hope if queer candidates around the country were to win their races.

Her hope comes against the backdrop of the actions of Republican state lawmakers and the uber-conservative makeup of the Supreme Court. In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, declaring the constitution does not protect a woman’s right to choose. The original case upset decades of precedent which established a right to privacy, or the freedom for people to make decisions about their body and personal life “without interference from the government.” 

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The ruling not only impacted abortions rights, it muddied the rights for queer people across the country. As a result, many feel that the past two years have demonstrated that they can’t depend on the government to protect their dignity and rights. This  has contributed to a sense of urgency to support LGBTQ-centered policies and candidates on the ballot. 

Though privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, a person’s “individual privacy [has been regarded] as the foundation of individual liberty,” Sarah Wald, a senior policy advisor and lecturer at Harvard Law School, wrote. “This foundational privacy right was the basis for several extremely important court decisions recognizing individual rights, including access to contraception, to the ability to interracially marry, to engage in same-sex intimacy, and ultimately, same-sex marriage.”

When the court decided against Roe v. Wade, it emboldened Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to suggest that the court reexamine those cases “because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous.” The ruling placed in jeopardy the rulings in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the criminalization of consensual same sex conduct,  and Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognizes same-sex marriage. 

Some are worried that more of their rights will be eroded. Brianna Perry, a sophomore biology major at Howard University, said she worried about the effect on the LGBTQ community.

“I feel like we’ve made such great strides in the past when it came to gay marriage being legalized…And now that Roe v. Wade [was] overturned…I feel like we’re taking such a big step back,” Perry said.

In recent years, lawmakers have written legislation infringing on the rights of LGBTQ people. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 23 states introduced, and 13 have signed anti-LGBTQ bills into law this year alone. Many of these specifically target trans youth.

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In March, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis sparked a national outcry when he passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for kindergarten through third-grade students. Similarly, in September, the Virginia Department of Education announced a set of guidelines called Model Policies that rescinded the rights of transgender students in the state’s public schools to use school bathroom facilities that aligned with their gender identity. 

Expressing her frustrations, Berthoud said, “We’re in 2022…Times are changing.” The sophomore honors psychology major with a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies added, “We as a human society are changing. Things are becoming more acceptable, [so] why can’t that reflect in our government decisions as well.” 

Juan Benn Jr. is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.

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