The Evolution of LGBTQ+ Rights

Queer Liberation March, June 28th 2020. Photo by Emma Gaffney

By Rida Ali, age 16

“Would I truly go to heaven, despite being gay?” was a question that James Guay asked himself as a young child. Guay, in an interview with Time, described how he was a victim of conversion therapy, a practice that attempts to change one’s sexuality from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer into a straight, heteronormative person. At the start of the decade, there were no states across the country that outlawed conversion therapy. As of 2020, there are now around 20 states that have such laws in place.

There are many laws against LGBTQ+ discrimination, whether in the workplace, at restaurants or sexual conversion “therapy.” As these protective laws were put in place by the federal government, some state governments have given extreme pushback, going so far as to create new laws that would contradict the protections granted to LGBTQ+ members. 

In 2016, the Obama administration required all schools to protect their transgender students by counteracting bullying, calling them by their preferred names and pronouns, and allowing access to the bathroom that correlates to the gender with which they identify. Despite pushback from state governments, a federal law passed in 2015, legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States. 

While there are still some states that have done close to nothing to protect their LGBTQ+ members, there has been a shift in opinions about state laws. Utah, for example, one of the country’s most conservative and religious states, outlawed health professionals from forcing minors into conversion therapy. Progress is being made as more Southern states known for their conservative and anti-LGBTQ+ policies bring new and protective bills to the table. Oklahoma and Kentucky, according to the New York Times, have both in the last year seen an uptick of Republicans rally for and push bills intended to protect children from conversion therapy.

Although these protective laws have mainly been successful, there is still an increase in new legislation that targets transgender youth across states.

Amendment: On June 15th, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a federal civil rights law which protects LGBTQ+ workers. The court ruled that the disputed language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, does indeed apply to discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


Heteronormative: The belief or assumption that all people are heterosexual and only attracted to members of the opposite sex.
Discrimination: The unfair treatment of one particular person or group of people.

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