Guest Commentary: Building a nation free from discriminationRev. Melissa McQueen-Simmons / June 28, 2019
It’s been over three years since North Carolina legislators forced through the shameful “House Bill 2,” which blatantly discriminated against our transgender neighbors and created a national stain on our state – but I remember watching the law pass like it was yesterday.
Over the course of just a few hours, the North Carolina General Assembly held a rushed hearing where transgender people and their allies implored elected officials to consider their humanity and respect their dignity. Lawmakers didn’t listen.
HB2 is no longer on the books – but to this day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender North Carolinians are speaking out and asking our elected officials to listen to our stories and take action to allow us to live as full and equal members of society. That’s because North Carolina is one of 30 states where LGBTQ people are not explicitly protected from discrimination; that lack of comprehensive protections and the state – and federal – levels leaves LGBTQ people vulnerable to discrimination in employment, housing, public spaces, and so many other areas of life.
The lack of nondiscrimination protections impacts me personally because I am a proud, same-gender loving woman. I am also a mother, a spouse, and a veteran. And the God that I know – the God that loves me, my wife, and our young child – loves me for who I am. The God that I know loves everyone. Passing LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in North Carolina and through the U.S. Congress would provide significant relief for the many LGBTQ people in our state and beyond who feel like they cannot live their lives to the fullest, who pretend that they are something that they’re not just because living authentically could lead to them losing everything they have: Their jobs, their homes, their dignity. I work for an organization that affirms my sexual orientation, but I have friends and colleagues who work in less supportive spaces where they feel unable to talk about their spouse or cherish a photo of their significant other.
In our often-divided times, it feels especially urgent for people of faith like me to share our stories and help our neighbors understand why we support LGBTQ freedom. For me, it’s a matter of basic fairness and the Golden Rule: Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. At the end of the day, we are all God’s children; that’s a lesson my father taught me. I was raised in the Church of God in Christ denomination, where my father served as a pastor. A few years ago, his peers gave him grief for celebrating my marriage to my wife and for walking me down the aisle at my wedding. He responded by sharing that he loves his daughter and will support her. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but at least we agree that all people are worthy of respect, especially when we are living as our authentic selves.
When you take a step back, it’s clear that we live in a world where it should be easy to love each other, build community, and celebrate each other. Now, it’s time to take that love and community and transform it into policy that protects all North Carolinians from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
We all deserve to raise our children in a nation that is judgment-free, in a community that reflects acceptance of all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or class. Everyone should be treated fairly, no matter who they love, who they are, or who they serve.
Melissa N. McQueen-Simmons is a native of Greensboro, N.C., a graduate of Dudley High School and a first-generation college graduate. She earned her Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Pastoral Care from Howard University. She is ordained in the United Church of Christ and is installed as pastor and teacher to Many Voices, a Black church movement for gay and transgender justice. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.