In honor of Pride Month, Foley invited all firm members to attend a virtual workshop on June 13 led by Ryan C. Wilson, M. Ed., associate regional campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an organization that strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Wilson began the program by asking attendees to think of one reason why they care about LGBTQ+ equality this year and to keep that reason top of mind during the workshop. The first half provided an overview of the current state of LGBTQ+ equality in the United States, with a focus on legislative efforts at the federal and state levels.
Right now, Wilson explained, zip code determines what protections LGBTQ+ people have when it comes to things like financing the purchase a home or patronizing a restaurant. He said this could be remedied by passage of The Equality Act, which would ensure freedoms at the national level in the areas of employment, credit, housing, education, public places/services, federal funds, and jury selection. The Act has twice passed the House, and HRC has created The Reality Flag campaign as part of its efforts to advocate for passage in the Senate.
Wilson also provided a sobering look at state legislative battles for LGBTQ+ equality, where there has been a marked increase in anti-transgender bills targeting youth sports participation, gender-affirming health care, and books used in schools. “It’s a scary moment for parts of our community.” The good news is that there are more than 500 cities listed on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index – and over 110 with a score of 100 percent – which rates cities based on non-discrimination laws, municipal services, leadership on LGBTQ+ equality, and other measures.
The second half of the program focused on ways to support and advance LGBTQ+ equality and make a difference in our respective communities such as looking for local and virtual opportunities to volunteer.
At the legislative level, these include engaging with elected representatives through lobby visits, phone calls, emails, and grasstops efforts. Wilson advised attendees on how to use storytelling to enhance the effectiveness of these interactions, including your name, where you live, and why protections for LGBTQ+ people is important to you.
In addition, “you have power in where you’re spending, where you have your banking, what brands you buy, so make sure you’re buying for equality and supporting businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community,” Wilson said. HRC’s Corporate Equality Index is one tool that’s useful for making this determination.
Attendees also engaged with Wilson during a candid Q&A, discussing opportunities for further education as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally, how to vet what companies are really doing to advance equality, and what else we all can be doing to not just ‘talk-the-talk’ but also ‘walk-the-walk’.
It’s a challenging time for young people right now, but HRC is built on resistance and the LGBTQ+ community is resilient,” Wilson said. “Stay engaged, don’t get complacent, and lead with love and empathy.”
This program was presented by Foley’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Allies Affinity Group. Learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at the firm.