How 2013 Will Finally Bring Real Change for LGBT Americans

The year 2012 was nothing less than a watershed year for the LGBTQ movement in the United States. For starters, this year saw President Barack Obama endorse same-sex marriage. Popular support for marriage equality reached a critical mass in this November’s ballot measures in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, and Maine. We saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deliver a landmark speech on international LGBTQ human rights. Our movement saw more queer-identified individuals elected to public office and is increasingly supported by the majority of Americans.

2013 will no doubt see additional challenges and successes for queer folks. A number of issues are likely to be addressed by the courts or in legislative sessions. Several issues which will most likely come up include same-sex marriage and nondiscrimination ordinances. Moreover, LGBTQ rights will continue to play a key role in the social policy positions of congressional, state assembly, and gubernatorial races. 

Federal Support for Same-Sex Marriage: The Supreme Court granted certiorari to a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as well as the Proposition 8 Same-Sex Marriage Amendment battle in California. It’s likely that the court will rule on same-sex marriage this summer and create a single, federal policy regarding LGBTQ families and partnerships.

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA): Many Americans would be shocked to learn that an individual can be fired in 29 states for identifying or appearing to identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Meanwhile, 34 states allow employers to discriminate against individuals based on gender identity. ENDA would take action at the federal level to protect all LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace. By protecting the rights of LGBTQ people to find and secure employment free of prejudice, ENDA provides an additional layer of security to queer peoples’ daily existence which they currently live without. Given widespread support for this relatively uncontroversial proposal, I’d imagine Congress will take action on ENDA in the next year.

These issues have been at the center of LGBTQ advocacy since the inception of the movement. If these victories are won in the next year, the LGBTQ movement might take on different targets like policies which prevent queer folks from donating blood, policies which marginalize trans people, or the social conditions which lead queer people to be disproportionately impoverished and incarcerated.

If same-sex marriage is settled, I’d also hope that LGBTQ activists would use their infrastructure and contacts to expand networks of support with other progressive groups. We’d be likely to see increased solidarity work between queer movements and the struggle of undocumented folks to support all families, even those who are bi- or multi-national. We might see work by LGBTQ organizers on economic justice and the imperative of fairness for all workers.

Dorothy Parker once wrote, “Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.” In 2013 I hope that the LGBTQ movement will continue to have success in the fight for legal rights for queer folks. More than that, though, I hope that 2013 sees incremental change in the paradigm around what it means to be queer by destabilizing heteronormative assumptions around identity. It is this latter concern which will be most difficult to achieve over the coming years but one to which we must remain steadfast.