By Ricardo Almodovar | June 28, 2022
As we recognize Pride month, let’s discuss what’s at stake for LGBTQ+ communities in these upcoming elections.
I am an openly gay man born and raised in Pennsylvania and the next person to hold a seat in office or a bench in our courts in the Commonwealth will decide if an employer can fire me or if I can be evicted from my home, based on my sexual orientation, without any legal consequences. I am concerned about the health of our democracy and voting rights because they will impact the trajectory of our country and LGBTQ+ equality.
Regardless of your stance or ideology, it’s clear that elections play an important part in almost every aspect of our lives — that includes whether the LGBTQ+ community is protected from discrimination or not. From city councils to the desk of the President of the United States, our government shapes what kind of country we live in through the passage of laws, public policy, and the distribution of resources.
Sadly, in Pennsylvania and in many other parts of the country, the LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these problems of inequity.
We also know that this isn’t our community’s first crisis. In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic crippled our communities, while social conditions like poverty and homelessnes made LGBTQ+ people more vulnerable to infection and other social problems.
To make matters worse, lawmakers targeted and criminalized homosexual behavior through “sodomy laws.” Only when activists organized and pressured stakeholders did the U.S. Supreme Court finally overturn some of those laws. We owe relentless community organizing and continued action to further victories. One key moment involving the courts occurred in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage equality was legal in all fifty states. And in a 6-3 decision in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of LGBTQ+ protections from discrimination under an extension of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Over the past few decades our community has registered and voted like never before which ultimately makes an impact on who is on our courts in these historic rulings.
While larger towns and cities, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have their own municipal policies protecting LGBTQ+ people, Pennsylvania still has no state-wide nondiscrimination ordinance to protect our community. In order to change that reality, it’s crucial that all Pennsylvanians, including LGBTQ+ people, have unhindered access to the ballot box. As active participants in our democracy, we can push to elect officials that properly represent our priorities and hold them accountable to the needs of their constituents.
Our community far too often faces disproportionate and unique barriers to registration and voting. For example, out-of-date voter IDs that don’t properly reflect a voter’s name and gender, hinders transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-comforming individuals from voter registration drives or voting at their polling location.
Amid a pandemic and the constant bombardment of information and disinformation, we must do whatever it takes to expand our democracy and protect voting rights in the United States. We need officials who won’t pick and choose whose rights to defend, but people who are elected fairly by their constituents and who will work to protect equal justice and the right to vote for all citizens. Sadly, too many politicians put the wealthy and powerful first, and they will have no problem denying Americans’ voting rights, stripping health care from millions of people and rolling back protections in the LGBTQ+ community.
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Ricardo Almodovar is the Pennsylvania State Coordinator for the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project, currently residing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Read the op-ed online at: https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2022/06/voting-rights-are-key-to-advancing-lgbtq-equality-opinion.html