The day after the presidential election, in communities across the country, many LGBTQ people woke up frightened by the results and fearful of what might lie ahead. Workers and students, families, friends, and parents wondered what would come next for themselves and their loved ones. But in the months since Donald Trump stepped into the White House, an empowered grassroots movement has filled our streets with marches and protests. We’ve written our representatives and rallied in airports. From Washington to Los Angeles — and on countless Main Streets in between — we’ve resisted with pride in ourselves and power in our voices.
Unfortunately, during their first six months in office, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have governed the same way they campaigned — with hostility and opposition to the ideals of equality, opportunity, and diversity. President Trump and his administration have rescinded lifesaving guidance promoting the protection and dignity of transgender kids and appointed extreme, anti-equality judges to the federal bench. They’ve sought to build walls and close our shores to LGBTQ people fleeing persecution and poverty. And they continue in their heartless effort to rip health care away from tens of millions of Americans, including those living with HIV and AIDS.
But we are not just fighting back — we are pushing forward. The Human Rights Campaign is launching HRC Rising, the largest expansion and investment in grassroots organizing in our organization’s 37-year history. We’ll be building strength in key states across the country to resist the politics of hate, fight anti-LGBTQ legislation, and fuel pro-equality candidates and initiatives. We’ll be hiring new staff, working in close partnership with other state and local organizations, and further expanding our army of volunteers, advocates, and members to open hearts and change minds.
While we are emboldened in our mission, this grassroots energy and determination is not new to our movement or our nation’s history. Throughout our fight for full equality, we’ve made significant progress because of the persistent efforts and often quiet courage of grassroots activists and everyday people standing up and speaking out. We’ve changed individual minds, families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Community by community, state by state, we’ve brought our nation closer to the goal of a more perfect union.
We know we can do it. Just last year in North Carolina — in one of the few bright spots in the election — we witnessed the winning power of uniting, investing in grassroots organizing, and mobilizing our community and supporters. HRC and Equality North Carolina successfully defeated the state’s incumbent governor, Pat McCrory after he targeted LGBTQ people with his notoriously discriminatory House Bill 2 law. In advance of the election, we set out to organize the more than 250,000 LGBTQ voters and allies across North Carolina and built a campaign against HB2. By Election Day, 57 percent of voters said the law was the top reason to vote against McCrory. HRC Rising is taking that successful strategy and replicating it in critical states and jurisdictions across the country as we prepare for the crucial 2018 elections and beyond.
Our community’s progress did not happen overnight. From Stonewall to the Supreme Court of the United States, it took decades of tireless work for us to come as far as we have and — and, make no mistake, urgent challenges remained even before Donald Trump’s election. As we enter this new chapter in our movement’s history, we do so knowing that the barriers to equality we face require a long-term commitment to education, movement building and grassroots action in red states and in blue states, in big cities and in small towns.
In this moment, it is not just our community’s progress that’s at stake; who we are as a nation is also on the line. Lives literally depend on us to unite, resist, and enlist to defeat hate and discrimination in all of its forms and to move equality forward from coast to coast.
Time and time again, the LGBTQ community has made what once seemed impossible to many into a reality today. Those experiences, and the lessons we learned along the way, give us hope and strength for the challenges that we must face and the advancements we must make. With the launch of this unprecedented investment in our grassroots, we are energized and committed to the fight ahead; and we know millions of Americans are as well.
This op-ed, authored by Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof, originally appeared in The Advocate.
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