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Opinion: We believe in equality for all — why aren’t we including the LGBTQ community?

Most states do not have laws in place to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. We must change that if we believe in freedom for all

SHARE Opinion: We believe in equality for all — why aren’t we including the LGBTQ community?
Volunteers hold a rainbow flag while marching in the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Volunteers hold a rainbow flag while marching in the Utah Pride Parade along 200 South in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 5, 2022. Less than half of the states have laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Our country was founded on the fundamental truth that “all men are created equal” and that all are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Constitution was written with this as its foundation. The purpose of our Constitution is to provide the structure to achieve this equality.

It is an ideal we are still working to perfect.

Establishing laws that reflect the equality of all people has been a long process that we are still working toward. Landmark Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, alongside notable laws such as Fair Housing, the American Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mark the progress we have made.

Religious Freedom has also evolved. For example, Utah’s history is about people coming here in search of religious freedom because U.S. laws were insufficient in 1847 to protect them. Today our nation recognizes the importance of protecting religious freedom. It goes hand in hand with providing nondiscrimination protections for all people. Religion is often about all people being God’s children.

Our nation is at its natural best when we are focused on pursuing greater equality. Equality is the fundamental, bipartisan American value that helps our country thrive. Our largest employers know that diversity is good for business; it has been shown to increase creativity and productivity.

While our country now has many protections for a variety of people, there are still no federal laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. While some states and local governments have passed some anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, 27 states have no protections at all.

It is time to pass federal laws protecting LGBTQ people in employment, housing, public spaces and public accommodations. Nearly 80% of Americans, including the majority of people in every state, would like to see these kinds of federal laws and protections. There is bipartisan support with 65% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats in favor of these protections. In Utah, an overwhelming majority of the people, 83%, support laws to protect LGBTQ people.

A meta study of thousands of peer-reviewed studies clarifies that discrimination is inflicting harm on our LGBTQ citizens. It often affects their general well-being including both their mental and physical health. Kellan Baker, of Johns Hopkins University and co-lead of the study, said this research really humanizes the policy debate and shows the need for these protections.

LGBTQ people are our co-workers and part of our families, friends, neighborhoods and faith communities. They want what everyone else wants: to be free from discrimination in housing, employment and to be served fairly by businesses and government offices. Equality is about treating others as we would want to be treated. 

A diverse group of people, Equality and Fairness For All Americans, coming from all walks of life, backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities are working to find a good balance that provides protections to LGBTQ people while still preserving religious freedom. It is called the Equality and Fairness for All Americans Framework. While the full details are still being worked out, their progress and cooperative efforts look promising.

I encourage all Americans to join in this endeavor by writing your representatives asking them to support this effort to find ways we can protect everyone’s rights. You can go to EqualityandFairness.com and click on their “Take Action” menu at the top and choose the appropriate ones for you. It includes a pledge you can take and a way to email your representatives.

Debra Oaks Coe works as a volunteer on suicide prevention and is the founder of Of-Worth, which focuses on the worth and value of all people