In most states, LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces – and it's time for that to change. That’s why across the country, Americans are speaking out and sharing their stories.
Mary Walsh and her longtime partner, Beverly Nance, decided to move into a St. Louis-area retirement community to spend their later years together. However, when the community inquired about the nature of their relationship and learned they were a married couple, the community turned them away, citing the owners’ religious beliefs. Mary and Beverly filed suit in federal court with the help of NCLR, seeking to challenge the housing discrimination they experienced.
“This is not right. They shouldn’t be able to do this,” Mary said. “We met all the qualifications, other than that one of us wasn’t a man.”
“What it feels like to transgender is to be yourself in your very own way,” said Libby Gonzales, a young girl who lives with her mom, dad, and two siblings in Dallas, TX. Libby is transgender, meaning she was born and raised as a boy but expressed from a young age that she is a girl, and so she transitioned and now lives every day as the girl she understands herself to be. Libby puts it more simply: “I have a boy body, but I’m a girl in my brain and my heart.”
Frank and Rachel Gonzales, Libby’s parents, just want what is best for their child. “Every parent wants their child to express themselves and be true to who they are,” Frank said. “No parent wants to say, ‘I know you feel this way, but you should hide that.’ No parent wants to say that. As a parent, we are called to love our children.”
Libby’s transition has been an integral part of Libby’s childhood, and Rachel explains that following her transition, the family was inundated with affirmation from teachers, classmates, and other parents who said they had never before seen Libby be so confident, outgoing, and self-assured. Still, Rachel and Frank know it’s not all easy and that discrimination against transgender people is not uncommon in Texas and beyond. “There are some days that a lot of tears are shed, and not because I’m upset to have a transgender child, but because I know what she’s up against,” Rachel said. That’s why the parents are speaking out in support of LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. She continued: “I want the very best for her in life, and it’s terrifying as a parent to know that my child will have significant struggles in life because of who she is.”
As a business owner in Oklahoma, Bill Snipes takes pride in the work he and his family have done for over half a century, making lives easier and providing safety and security to people from all walks of life. At the center of the business, Loftus & Wetzel Corporation, are the core principles of fairness, equity, and honesty. “My family has been in the insurance business for over 60 years here in Oklahoma City. We sell personal and business insurance, so we get to know the ins and outs of our clients’ lives. It never crossed my mind that an LGBTQ customer could be turned away from a business simply because of who they are. But when my daughter was planning her wedding with her future wife, I realized she could be denied service just because someone objects to marriage between same-sex couples.”
“Owning a business is hard work, but no matter how a person feels about gay or transgender people, it is important that businesses follow the law and treat customers fairly,” he said. “We can’t pick and choose which laws to follow, and no one should be exempt from treating everyone fairly under the law. I’m proud to keep my business open to all.”
Pastor Rudy Rasmus is an author and a global humanitarian who is committed to speaking out against discrimination in Texas. For more than 20 years he has served as a Senior Pastor of St. John’s Methodist Church in downtown Houston. In 2017 he was one of many members of the clergy in Texas who spoke out against a large swath of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“Supporting nondiscrimination protections for all Texans, including gay and transgender Texans, supports Jesus’ mandate to treat others like we would want to be treated,” he wrote.
“As a pastor, I’m here to tell you the only thing nondiscrimination laws provide are basic protections like equality in employment, restaurants, apartments – for everyone. Loving your neighbor as yourself in today’s world certainly includes guaranteeing that a Texan can’t lose your job for being who they are or loving who they love. Loving your neighbor as yourself means you can’t be refused service at a restaurant because of the group you’re with. Loving your neighbor as yourself means you can’t be denied housing because of who you are. This is the type of treatment nondiscrimination policies address. We are all God’s children. We all deserve protection from discrimination.”
Kimberly Acoff knows what it feels like when your very humanity and dignity is up for public debate. That’s because Kimberly is a transgender woman – she was born and raised male but understood for a long time that that didn’t quite fit, and so she transitioned and now lives every day as the woman she has long known herself to be. Kimberly is also a veteran, having served in the Indiana National Guard for several years, before the Department of Defense lifted the ban on open service for transgender people. Now that President Trump is trying to once again ban transgender Americans from serving their country, Kimberly is finding herself revisiting the deeply unpleasant memories of when she had to hide who she was in order to serve her country.
“History has shown us that we are a group of strong individuals – I speak from a history of knowing transgender people growing up in my young adult life, and I know that we are resilient, and that the American people in general are good-hearted people for the most part,” she said. “When we restrict and roll back freedom for one group, we’re rolling back and restricting freedom for every American.”