Celebrating the LGBTQ+ community

June 29, 2020

Dear Changemakers,

Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising in New York City. With public Pride celebrations canceled or postponed around the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19, virtual celebrations are finding ways to mark the progress our society has made. We also must recommit to the work still ahead.

First, the progress. Only two weeks ago, a conservative Supreme Court ruled (PDF) that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender people from workplace discrimination. This consequential precedent aligns with a powerful shift in public attitudes. Though 46 percent of LGTBQ+ workers reported they were still closeted at work in 2018, SCOTUSPoll (PDF) found that this year, 83 percent of Americans think it should be illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, and 79 percent think the same of firing someone for being transgender. The court’s decision providing federal protections for LGBTQ+ workers is especially consequential for the 52 percent of LGBTQ+ people who live in states that do not ban discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is also consequential for millions of parents, like my husband and me, who now know both our children will enter the workforce with the same legal protections.

And yet, there is so much work ahead. The FBI reported recently that hate crimes motivated by biases based on gender identity increased 41 percent between 2017 and 2018, the last year for which data are available. How can we make sense of changing public attitudes and the violent deaths of at least 16 transgender or gender nonconforming people reported in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign, including three Black transgender women, Brayla Stone in Arkansas, Riah Milton in Ohio, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Pennsylvania? Too many of our institutions and norms fail to protect LGTBQ+ people—especially those of color—and leave them at risk of frightening violence.

The risks are not just physical. The Urban Institute’s own research finds that housing providers are less likely to tell gay male renters or transgender renters about available units. And though the US Supreme Court expanded legal protections this month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed reversing protections for transgender people in homeless shelters and the Department of Health and Human Services has finalized rules that define “sex discrimination” as applicable only when someone faces discrimination for being female or male and does not protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in receiving health care or health insurance.

Here at Urban, we remain committed to bringing evidence-based analyses to the policies and social dynamics affecting LGBTQ+ people, including the recent Supreme Court ruling; systemic barriers to housing stability; the interplay of racism, sexual orientation, and gender identity; and the need for an equity lens in the nation’s COVID-19 response. We hope the insights we deliver support all changemakers—from street activists to c-suite executives—in shaping meaningful actions that better the social and economic well-being of LGBTQ+ people and families across our country.

Wishing you and yours a joyful Pride—now and all year long.

Warmly,
Sarah