Opinion: The Biden-Harris election win is a good day for LGBTQ+ Rights Worldwide

The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is historic, not just for a community in the US which has been isolated and discriminated against for the past four years, but for the entire LGBTQ+ movement worldwide.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both wearing masks holding hands aloft in front of a US flag

Both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris come into power with a strong track record in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. Inauguration day on the 20th January next will put two human rights champions into the most powerful offices in the land, and mark the end of a dark period which has seen rights eroded – and, for members of the trans community, wiped out. 

Eight years ago, the President-elect beat his then-boss Barack Obama in declaring his support for Marriage Equality in an unexpected intervention on the king of political talk shows, Meet the PressTo astounded viewers, he declared “Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what all marriages, at their root, are about.”

Coming from a politician previously known as a social conservative this was seismic.

Kamala’s record speaks for itself. As a San Francisco District Attorney, Harris prosecuted anti-LGBTQ+ violence. She was a leader to end the use of the so-called gay and transgender panic defence, later she was pivotal in getting it banned nationwide.

Harris announced her campaign for California attorney general days after the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, a successful California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. While serving as California’s top prosecutor — a job she held for six years — she declined to defend the ban in court.

The Future

So, what we can expect from the incoming Presidency? Some things we already know. There is a firm commitment to enact the Equality Act to protect our right to work within the first 100 days in office. This is important. The Trump regime was marked by active discrimination against our LGBTQ+ community or, in other instances, staying silent while others went on the attack.

Currently in parts of the US, LGBTQ+ people genuinely fear that if they get married over a weekend they could be fired on Monday. Our rights to confront this, once undermined, will now be restored.

While the outgoing regime attempted in public to drape the rainbow flag around itself, only a few people were fooled. 

However, when it comes to trans people there was no pretence at all. Discrimination was ugly and carried out in full public view. The most striking moment being the effective firing of people who had pledged to put their lives on the line to protect America – when a single tweet dismissed them from the armed services.

In contrast, the Biden campaign has given a firm commitment to resource supports for transgender and non-binary people as well as a complete reversal of the military ban. Actions made all the more powerful by the election of Sarah McBride to the State Senate of Delaware, the first member of the transgender community to reach such high office. The powerful winds of change did not just blow through the corridors of DC this time around.

The reversal of the wrongs of the past four years will be measured in weeks not years.

Global Impact

Those who target our communities worldwide would also be wise to sit up and take notice. The US State Department will be emerging from a period of silence during which the targeting of LGBTQ+ people internationally was ignored.

As I joined the celebrations on Broadway in New York in the moments following the declaration of the results on that now-famous Saturday – my thoughts did turn to those watching from afar. People in Russia, Turkey and even in Poland who have been forced into the shadows. They cannot show love and affection for fear of recrimination, prosecution or in some cases even death.

Soon they will again have a powerful beacon and ally to rely on. The United States is about to rejoin Ireland and other modern democracies which stand up and punish those regimes that trample all over our human rights.

The Work is Not Over

We can enter the new year with hope, but we must also go into a period of reflection. It will be important to examine how in just one term a President could do so much damage. It has shown our work is not done. We must continue to attract allies. We need policy-makers not just in the US, but in Ireland and across the globe to bring in laws which cannot be reversed with the stroke of a Presidential pen – or in many cases a Tweet.

We need Pride, inclusive workplaces and our next generations to be taught the history of LGBTQ+ rights. Yes, it is right that we pause and celebrate, but unless we also learn lessons from the darkness of the past four years we run the serious risk that it could happen again. 

Katherine Zappone is a former Independent Minister for Children. As a dual citizen and member of the Democratic Party, she campaigned for Biden/Harris in the US Election.

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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