Moss: Continue work toward equality

Kary L. Moss

It's with abundant joy that I write this, because the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality is a decisive victory for the LGBT community and equality in America.

Never before have I witnessed such a historic transformation in public opinion in such a short span of time and there are many lessons to learn from this experience.

The Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage strengthens the definition of marriage for everyone and ensures that LGBT individuals enjoy the same rights as everyone else. It embraces the ideals that all men and women are created equal, that love is love, and that our country is a better place when everyone enjoys the same rights, including the right to commit to a lifelong relationship and unite as a family.

On behalf of the ACLU of Michigan, I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard for this achievement.

But our work is far from over—especially in Michigan. In some ways, in fact, it's only just begun.

Despite the right same-sex couples now have to marry, LGBT people still face widespread discrimination in Michigan. Without protections for the LGBT community in the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a newly married LGBT man or woman could return to work to find he or she no longer has a job. Except in the 39 cities with non-discrimination ordinances, it's still legal in Michigan to fire someone or deny them housing simply for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The transgender community in particular needs our support right now, especially given the alarming rise in violence against them.

As a step toward protecting transgender people, the ACLU of Michigan has filed a lawsuit challenging the Michigan Secretary of State policy that makes changing someone's gender marker on state identification difficult, if not impossible. Having the wrong gender marker on an ID can lead to discrimination, substandard treatment by medical providers and law enforcement officers, and acts of violence.

In Michigan, we not only have too few protections for LGBT people. We're seeing efforts to enshrine discrimination into law, like the one recently passed giving taxpayer-funded, faith-based adoption agencies the right to turn away LGBT people or anyone else to which they have a religious objection or difference of belief.

With the Supreme Court having ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, I fear that we're going to see even more challenges to LGBT equality. I'm confident the Michigan Legislature will take up the misleadingly named "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which would allow anyone to be denied service on the basis of religious or moral objections.

There's other Michigan RFRA legislation in the works, too, including a bill that could allow religious refusals in the delivery of health care, with only the vaguest of protections for patients, even in an emergency. We've seen the dangerous repercussions in other states with RFRA legislation, and alongside our partners in the LGBT, faith and business communities, the ACLU of Michigan will work to defeat harmful RFRA legislation. Just as we defend the freedom of religion — a fundamental right protected in the state and federal constitutions — we will continue to protect people from the intrusion of religion into their lives. That's a right, too.

But there's another freedom to celebrate today: freedom to marry for everyone, no matter who they love. It was a hard-won victory and we have many people to thank, some of whom are long gone but who championed this right when doing so meant risk of loss of life, job, or family. Until the day that there is no discrimination anywhere, our work is far from done.

Kary L. Moss is executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.