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July 1, 2015
Kevin Cathcart

Our voices are hoarse from cheering and our feet are tired from marching, but our hearts are full and we’re ready for what comes next. No time to waste.

Last week’s Supreme Court victory offered soaring language about equality, dignity and our common humanity. That same-sex couples now know they have a constitutional right to marry anywhere in our country and to have their marriages fully recognized brings enormous concrete and symbolic benefits. It’s huge, and it affects so many of us, whether we choose to marry or not.

But it is far from the end of the story. This victory came during a particularly tragic time in our country, soon after the murders of nine African Americans in an act of racist terrorism. It came in a year when at least 12 transgender women were murdered in the first six months of the year – most of them women of color. It was decided in a country where 39 states still have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have recently brought HIV-related criminal charges. And it came in a society where LGBTQ youth represent 40% of young people experiencing homelessness due, in large part, to family rejection. Our work is very far from done.

And, the more progress we make, the greater the resistance and backlash grows. There were more than 75 bills proposed in state legislatures this year designed to roll back our rights, and the majority of them were defeated. Nevertheless, harmful laws were enacted in Arkansas, Michigan and North Carolina that seek to allow private businesses, publicly funded agencies, and public officials to refuse to serve LGBT people based on their personal religious views. The backlash is dangerous, and following the Supreme Court decision, it is likely to only get worse.

At Lambda Legal, we know what we need to do. We’ve been doing it for decades.

Here’s what’s next:

  • Finishing the work of securing the freedom to marry in all states and territories by challenging discrimination or resistance to implementation and making sure marriages of same-sex couples are respected everywhere.
  • Stopping the backlash and resisting efforts to craft overly broad loopholes to antidiscrimination protections at the federal, state and local levels.
  • Confirming that transgender people are protected under laws barring sex discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations, and eliminating exclusions of transition-related health care for transgender people from Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, government employee and private insurance health coverage.
  • Addressing the needs of LGBT youth and the children of LGBT individuals and families including significantly improving school policies and practices aimed at reducing anti-LGBT bullying, discrimination and the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
  • Defending the rights of seniors who face discrimination related to their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, including discrimination by staff and residents at senior centers and denial of equal Social Security benefits and survivor benefits.
  • Securing state and federal non-discrimination laws expressly barring discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
  • Increasing protections for same-sex couples who are not married.
  • Improving treatment of LGBT people and people living with HIV by law enforcement authorities and in the penal and juvenile justice systems.
  • Fighting for comprehensive immigration reform and just treatment for immigrants in detention who are LGBT or living with HIV.
  • Developing more robust strategies for respecting and meeting the needs of people with non-binary sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Expanding the ways in which the needs of LGBT communities of color are addressed, including working to redress the ways in which racial and economic inequality and injustice affect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
  • Protecting our federal and state courts against attacks and policies that limit their effectiveness in upholding civil rights and providing access to justice for all.

At Lambda Legal, we will continue to strengthen our work to translate formal equality into lived equality. The goals of our work and our movement are not only about equality but also about justice, liberty, dignity, protections of expression and fair treatment at work, in school, in access to health care and in how the government deals with LGBT people and people with HIV.

With more than 100 cases on our docket today, we are already doing what’s next. As the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization fighting for the rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV, with offices in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, we are in it for the long haul.

No single Supreme Court ruling ever solved every problem nor ended a movement for justice. While we are jubilant about our success in this chapter of the work, we will not rest so long as any members of our community are denied their rights.