Stakes are high for LGBT rights

Gary Walker-Roberts, Guest Columnist

“Don’t boo, vote,” was a call-to-action by President Obama during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. As Americans look to vote in one of the most contentious elections in history, it is clear that for many minority groups, the stakes are high.
All people have the right to be treated equally under the law in our country. Sounds like an easy idea to understand, especially since we are taught that “all men are created equal.”
“All” is an inclusive word, but too often “some” is the one applied to rights, policies and laws when being crafted. The USA has historically had problems marginalizing minority communities forcing discriminatory practices and laws on these communities. Most Americans can agree that we have discriminatory laws, but many continue to grapple with systemic discriminatory practices. Thanks to President Obama, LGBT rights — specifically trans rights — have moved from the margins and are now front and center in this election.
President Obama including a marginalized minority group during his 2015 State of the Union speech was historical. When a minority group receives a welcomed assist from the leader of the free world, it’s important to take a moment to recognize the progress that has been made on human rights issues.
For example, the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” which allowed military personnel to be fired based on sexual orientation was ended on September 20, 2011.
This did not end without a fight in Congress. In fact, the 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee and then-representative from Indiana Mike Pence argued heavily against the initiative. He stated that the repeal was “some liberal domestic social agenda.”
In 2016, the Pentagon announced that they were lifting a long-time ban against transgender individuals serving openly in the military.
The Obama administration has raised the bar on LGBT rights in our country by treating LGBT discrimination equal to race, religion and gender discrimination.  Now transgender military service members can join and thrive openly in our military. Yet, this week, the 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized military leaders for being “politically correct” for allowing transgender individuals to serve visibly in the military.
Regardless of the Trump-Pence ticket’s blatant assault on human rights, we must acknowledge that we, the people, have helped to restore human rights to the LGBT people over the past few years. We have done so on both national and community levels.
The LMC community has been at the forefront of ensuring trans rights. In 2014, student leaders collaborated with the college administration to create a more inclusive campus environment through the gender-neutral restroom initiative.
Subsequently, the transgender community has found themselves with a target on their backs from the opposition after President Obama’s State of the Union Speech.
In an Aug. 25 editorial, The Experience called attention to a specific discriminatory law that targets the transgender community. The editors wrote that there have been “craven attempts by several states to roll back” rights of minorities this year, specifically the “passing of a law in North Carolina restricting bathroom access to trans people.”
The cultural assessment made by The Experience staff is spot on. The law makes it illegal for trans individuals, who have not made gender changes medically or legally (gender markers on birth certificates), to utilize the bathroom that matches the gender they identify with.
This law is rooted in discrimination and violates trans individual’s human rights. There are many other states that are proposing similar discriminatory laws — Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. Regressive laws and policies deserve a “boo,” but more importantly a vote. America cannot afford a Trump-Pence administration that aims to reverse the progress made toward LGBT equality.
It’s imperative that our country continues advancing LGBT rights, especially the trans community. Now is the time to listen to President Obama’s call to action. Voting is extremely important during this election. The Experience hit the nail on the head when they stated, “2016 is the most tolerant, inclusive year in the history of the United States.”
Voting for a presidential ticket that will continue the human rights progress will ensure a more inclusive America. President Obama’s actions bring hope that America live up to one of America’s key principles that “All humans are created equal.”