June 26 was a historic day for our country. In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry extends to same-sex couples. This was a momentous step toward fulfilling our country’s guarantee of full equality for everybody, but many assume the fight for equality is finished now that same-sex marriages nationwide will be recognized. The truth is we still have a long way to go before every citizen of this country can truly be equal under the law.
While same-sex couples can now marry in all 50 states, only 21 states protect an LGB individual from being fired because of whom they love. Of these, only 19 of states also protect against discrimination based on gender identity. Many local communities across the country—including Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee—have tried to step in, implementing workforce protections for all individuals. But this patchwork system of laws leaves far too many people vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace.
A country in which you can get married and then fired when you return from your honeymoon simply because of whom you love is not a country that treats its citizens equally. We need to use the momentum from our Supreme Court victory to advocate for protections and rights still not afforded to the LGBT community. We need to continue to rally together in order to achieve true equality for all individuals, and eliminate the remaining disparities in law that face the LGBT community today.
Today, our nation lacks laws ensuring constitutionally protected rights for LGBT individuals in many areas. Because of the patchwork, state-by-state nature of nondiscrimination laws, I continue to support efforts to federally protect any individual from unwarranted discrimination. Recently my colleagues in the Congressional Equality Caucus and I introduced a comprehensive LGBT equality bill, which would protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in all areas of society, including the workplace, schools, housing, access to credit and public accommodations.
Unfortunately, our country fails to offer these inherent rights as law, an issue that affects individuals nationwide. Our bill will ensure these protections are offered to every American in every public setting. A comprehensive LBGT equality bill is vital for achieving full equality for every citizen throughout our nation. As the opponents of equality regroup and seek new ways to halt progress, we must maintain our efforts and continue to fight discrimination against the LGBT community. With this bill, all Americans will be able to go through their daily lives without facing the threat of institutionalized discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
One of my top priorities is ensuring every individual has a voice and a seat at the table. No matter whom you love or how you identify, you deserve the same protections offered to every other member of our society. While 2015 has been a historic year so far, we still have a lot to accomplish. We cannot allow the momentum we have created to falter. In order to achieve full and lasting equality, we must continue to advocate for comprehensive rights for LGBT individuals. I am proud to continue the fight for equality, and I look forward to your support as we move forward, together.
Congressman Mark Pocan is the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s second district, which includes Dane, Green, Iowa, LaFayette, Sauk, and portions of Rock and Richland counties.