After years of progress on gay rights, how did the US become so anti-LGBTQ+?

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04/28/2022

In 2019, the Atlantic ran an opinion piece titled “The struggle for gay rights is over”. Written by the rightwing academic James Kirchick, the piece was obviously meant as a provocation, but its argument that “for those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won” was at least considered cogent enough at the time to publish. It came towards the end of a slew of political victories for the LGBTQ+ cause. At that time, it seemed as though the US supreme court would hand down a landmark ruling immediately before Pride Weekend every couple of years. The demise of the homophobic Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 was followed by the end of the federal ban on marriage equality in 2015. Widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage rights, gay people serving in the military and the need for protections for LGBTQ+ people followed. As recently as 2020, the court, then with two Trump appointees, ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected gay, lesbian and transgender workers. For all the terrible crises of our century, LGBTQ+ people’s rights were solidly enshrined, and attitudes were shifting in line with legislation. In 1985, 89% of parents said they would be sad if they discovered their child was gay or a lesbian. By 2015, it was down to 39%.

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