Though the past year was perhaps one of spectacular gains for the LGBTQ community, it looks as if, yet again, key issues for the transgender community will have lackluster support in the 113th Congress, with the House still controlled by Republicans. Remarkable gains in this Congress, with openly gay Tammy Baldwin taking one of the Senate seats for Wisconsin and Elizabeth Warren taking one of the Senate seats for Massachusetts, do bring hope for a future Congress with a mandate on full LGBTQ equality, but not in the immediate future.
In March the Supreme Court of the United States will hear two of the marriage equality cases out there. The decision will not necessarily be a clear victory for advocates of marriage equality, given that many states still have legislation and constitutional amendments preventing same-gender marriage. There are valid reasons for upholding the fight for marriage equality, such as much fairer tax laws, survivor benefits and the like for same-gender couples, but should the Supreme Court find the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, will the progressive movement achieve the same level of support for other issues affecting the LGBTQ community, particular economic issues?
My late husband and I were married in Iowa in March 2010. Uniquely, the marriage license application in Iowa requires no declaration of gender, and the marriage certificate gives no indication of gender, either. We elected not to specify gender, with my legal gender being "male" at the time, yet he wore his best suit, and I one of my best dresses and hats. Subsequently, in March 2012, following my transition and a decision by the state of Michigan to allow me to correct the gender on my birth certificate, our marriage certifiably became one between a male (albeit a gay one) and a female. When my husband died this past September, the Veterans Administration accepted my signature, as his widow, to have him buried in a national cemetery, but five months later the Social Security Administration is still quibbling about whether to award me a spouse's burial benefit, despite the fact that I provided a copy of our marriage certificate and the birth certificate indicating that I am female. As a result, despite the fact that I'm transgender, I have a personal, vested interest in the outcome of the DOMA review by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, employment, health care and housing equality remain the top issues for the trans community and, yes, for the entire LGBTQ community. Though the EEOC ruling of last spring clearly defines protections for trans-identified individuals, the burden of proof of employment discrimination remains on the individual, and that ruling does not provide employment opportunities. The burden of proof of discrimination in housing or shelter also remains on the individual, despite changes made to the Fair Housing Act. As a result, achieving the passage of legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and local and statewide nondiscrimination ordinances and laws is still at the forefront of the trans agenda.
Despite my desire that my own marriage be recognized, it remains my strongest desire that economic justice for the trans community not take a back seat to marriage equality and be forgotten. Last November's broad progressive wins alone will not bring a political mandate on issues of LGBTQ equality, so we have to keep pushing and fighting for an inclusive agenda of achieving political and economic equality for the entire LGBTQ community.