With Equality Federation celebrating its 20th anniversary, this year marks two decades of state equality groups coming together to strategize, share, and learn from each other. We believe that we are stronger and better together, and our record proves it. From passing nondiscrimination laws in more than 20 states to winning marriage nationwide, LGBTQ advocates have experienced tremendous progress in these two short decades. Even in our current climate, we continue to fight and we continue to win. Last year we passed 48 pro-equality statewide laws, and passed dozens of nondiscrimination ordinances in towns and cities all across the country.
But if we’ve learned anything in these last twenty years, it is that with every win we can expect our opposition to keep coming at us. In 2015 we won marriage and yet in 2016 state legislatures tried to push through 200 anti-LGBTQ laws. This year these lawmakers zeroed in on transgender people. As I write this, Texas lawmakers are in a special session to pass anti-transgender bills, and several lawsuits making their way through the courts have our hard-won marriage wins in the crosshairs. Our hard-fought victories are in peril and we must remain vigilant.
After last year’s election, what initially looked like a collective cloud of despair quickly dissolved, revealing the seeds of resistance across the country. Despite the fast and furious onslaught of misogyny, racism, and homophobia, young people are resisting and persisting in ways that will inspire future generations. More women are pledging to run for office. More Muslims, immigrants and people of color are raising their voices. More transgender youth and their parents are sharing their stories. Still, the road is not as smoothly paved for some as it is for others, and for them we must offer our solidarity, our support, and, as Harvey Milk famously encouraged, our hope.
Every day, I find hope in the LGBTQ advocates, many of them volunteers, at the state-based equality organizations, from Equality Florida, who rose stronger than ever through the heartbreaking attack at Pulse last year, to Alaskans Together, who persevered through repeated attempts to undermine their hard won nondiscrimination protections.
This week, in Alexandria, Virginia, hundreds of LGBTQ leaders will be join together to work on strategies for winning equality in the states they call home. I will see hope and determination in the faces of leaders from nearly every state in the nation. Alex from Equality Alabama will meet Sara from Wyoming Equality for the first time, and I can’t wait for them to connect about working with faith communities in their home states. Mason from Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition will answer a hundred questions on how his state passed the first stand-alone public accommodations law last year. We will call on young activists who weren’t even in preschool when we had our first gathering 20 years ago to share their knowledge and skills alongside veteran advocates who’ve been with us since the beginning.
We know how to do this. We have done this before. We will fight, and we will win.