The Supreme Court issued a historic ruling on June 26, 2015, granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry throughout the United States. As ACLU client Jim Obergefell and his co-plaintiffs stood triumphantly on the Court’s steps, advocates across the country celebrated this victory and the decades of work that brought it to fruition. From filing the very first lawsuit arguing for the freedom to marry in 1970 to representing Edie Windsor in the case that took down the Defense of Marriage Act to being counsel in 16 other federal marriage equality cases since 2013, the ACLU has been at the forefront of the fight for legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
But our movement does not end with marriage equality. Individuals can still be fired in 28 states solely because of their sexual orientation and in 31 states solely because of their gender identity. LGBTQ youth continue to face discrimination, harassment, and physical violence at school. And all too often, LGBTQ people and people living with HIV/AIDS are unfairly targeted by police and subjected to unconstitutional conditions while in custody. The gay, bisexual and transgender clients we represent who are locked up in San Bernardino County’s “alternative lifestyle tank” serve longer sentences and don’t get work, drug rehab, or educational programs.
We also have much work to do on the rights of parents. For example, some states do not recognize the rights of non-biological parents, even if they were married to or in a domestic partnership with the biological parent when the child was born. As a result, to ensure recognition across the country, non-biological parents must often adopt or get a court judgment in order to secure their parental rights. For more information about the parenting and marriage rights of same-sex couples, please see our updated CA Marriage FAQ. And check out the ACLU’s resource for transgender parents.
Many transgender individuals are still denied fundamental rights and lack access to basic services. They also face disproportionate rates of violence and police profiling. Trans youth experience a host of problems at school, including being “outed” by school staff, being addressed by the wrong name and/or pronoun, or not being able to use appropriate facilities. For example, Gavin, a transgender student in Virginia, is currently being forced to use “alternative private” restroom facilities at his school, which are separate from the communal restrooms that other students use.
Here in California, schools must respect a student’s gender identity and allow transgender students to use facilities and participate in gender-segregated programs in accordance with their gender identity. But transgender students still encounter problems at their schools despite our progressive laws. And to make matters worse, an anti-trans coalition is collecting signatures to get a bathroom policing initiative on the ballot that would require the government to monitor bathrooms and single out people who don’t meet stereotypes of what it looks like to be male or female. Those who don’t answer invasive questions or undergo examination would be prohibited from using the bathroom.
For information about your rights in these situations, be sure to check out our “Know Your Rights” cards for transgender students and for transgender individuals using public restrooms.
Though we have come a long way since that first marriage equality case in 1970, we still have a ways to go before LGBTQ individuals can be considered full and equal members of society. The ACLU will continue to lead this charge and “stand for justice” for everyone.
Melissa Goodman is director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California. Christine Parker is an intern with the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project.