** Article published on October 6, 2016: The Experience Newspaper
"Don't boo, VOTE," was a call-to-action by President Obama when he was on the campaign trail not so long ago. As November 8, 2016 draws near, many Americans are focusing on which Presidential candidate they will vote for. This election could be one of the most contentious elections in history, and it is clear that the stakes are high. A specific issue that Americans have to consider is what the climate is like for human rights. All people have the right to be treated equally under the law in our country. Sounds like a easy idea to understand, especially since we are taught in elementary civics class that one of America's key principles is "All men are created equal." This is clearly stated in the second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence. "All" is an inclusive word in the English language, but it is too often that word "some," which implies excluding a part of a whole, is applied to rights, policies and laws when being crafted. The United States of America has had historical problems (big problems) marginalizing minority communities, and unjustly "othering" these communities. The result of doing so forces these communities to encounter discriminatory practices and laws. The majority of Americans can agree that we have discriminatory laws; however, American's continue to grapple with systemic discriminatory practices. Thanks to President Obama, LGBT rights, specifically transgender rights, have moved from the margins of society and are now front and center during this election cycle.
An article, "Speech includes LGBT milestone," published in The Experience addresses a major . The fact that President Barack Obama included a marginalized minority group during his State of the Union speech is historical. The power of visibility and inclusivity can never be underestimated. When a minority group receives a welcomed assist from the most powerful leader of the free world, it is important to take a moment to recognize the progress that has made on human rights issues. Moreover, the Obama administration has made great strides on LGBT equality and equity in our country.
For example, the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy," that allowed military personnel to be fired based on sexual orientation ended on September 20, 2011. This policy did not end without a fight in Congress. In fact, the 2016 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and current Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, argued heavily against this human rights initiative. He stated that the repeal was "some liberal domestic social agenda." Furthermore, under the Obama administration in 2015, the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" was repealed. The Pentagon announced in 2016 that they were lifting a long-time ban against transgender people serving openly in the military.
This is one of the last LGBT discrimination barriers that have been removed. The Obama administration has raised the bar on LGBT human 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" to allow transgender people 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 community over the past few years. We have done so on both a macro-national level and on a micro-community level. Let us not forget that the Los Medanos College community has been at the forefront of ensuring that human rights for transgender individuals are met. In 2014, student leaders collaborated with the college administration to create a more inclusive and equitable campus environment through the gender-neutral restroom initiative. The initiative was widely accepted and on par with the Obama Presidency's progressive human rights changes. Subsequently, the transgender community has found themselves with a bigger target on their backs from the opposition after President Obama's State of the Union Speech.
Los Medanos College's newspaper, The Advocate, calls attention to a specific discriminatory law that targets the transgender community subsequently after President Obama elevated the need for equality for transgender people. The Advocate staff states, in the article "Bad Year for acceptance," that America has had a bad year when it comes to human rights progress. It is apparent that "craven attempts by several states to roll back" rights of minorities has taken place this year, states the article. The article points specifically to the "passing of a law in North Carolina restricting bathroom access to trans people." Agreeably, the cultural assessment made by the staff at The Advocate is spot on. North Carolina's Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, signed House Bill 2, or "HB2," into law in a special session earlier this year. The law makes it illegal for transgender individuals, who have not made gender changes medically or legally (gender markers on birth certificates), to utilize the bathroom that matches the gender that they identify with. This law is rooted in discrimination and violates transgender 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 huge "Boo," but more importantly a VOTE. America cannot afford a Trump-Pence Administration that aims to reverse the aforementioned human rights progress pertaining to LGBT equality.
It is imperative that our country continue to stay on the course of advancing human rights for the LGBT minority community, especially, the transgender community. Now is the time to listen to President Obama's call-to-action to not "boo, but vote." Voting is extremely imperative during this contentious election year. The Advocate hit the nail on the head when they state, "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 that America's future will be even more tolerant and inclusive. President Obama, by simply giving voice to a marginalized community by using the word "transgender" in a speech on a National platform, advanced human rights in hopes to end discrimination for all minority groups, including the LGBT community. His actions bring hope that America can move the human rights needle in the right direction to uphold one of America's key principles that "All humans are created equal."