This week marked a major milestone when President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the discriminatory policy banning transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military.
I felt a wave of relief that the exclusion of these brave service members will now be a sorry footnote in history. As a proud conservative, I strongly believe that we as a nation should be encouraging inclusion and opposing discrimination of any kind. Allowing qualified transgender Americans to serve openly makes the United States stronger and safer.
When the Trump administration announced the ban in 2017, it sparked swift bipartisan opposition. Excluding people who are willing to put their lives on the line for our country simply based on who they are runs counter to what we stand for as a nation.
I withdrew from consideration for a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security as an act of solidarity with our transgender service members. Discrimination doesn’t serve a purpose in the military, or anywhere. It hurts families, and it hurts our country. Our nation is best when we include all people, and let their talents shine.
The ban was a vivid example of the discrimination that many transgender Americans regularly experience. And despite this step forward, LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in other areas of life because of a lack of federal nondiscrimination protections.
It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to come together to pass federal legislation providing comprehensive protections for all LGBTQ Americans across all areas of daily life. Everyone should have the freedom to build a life where they can thrive. Inequality perpetuates a culture that doesn’t work for this country. No one should get to decide who can benefit from the American dream.
A recent survey found that more than one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the last year, including more than three in five transgender Americans. Additionally, opponents of LGBTQ equality continue to file discriminatory bills in states across the country that would make it harder for LGBTQ Americans to adopt children, get married, and access basic public services and businesses.
I hope we can all agree that Americans should be able to participate in all aspects of life with dignity and respect, and without fear of discrimination. No one should be at risk of being denied housing or refused service simply because of who they are or whom they love. Everyone should be free to go into a store, check into a hotel, or eat a meal at a restaurant.
Reaction to the military ban was an example of how bipartisan leaders can come together to do the right thing and reject anti-LGBTQ discrimination. We’re at a time when people in the conservative movement are starting to question what it looks like, how it will grow. A good start would be passing a bipartisan federal law that would protect LGBTQ Americans in all 50 states.
That’s a milestone I’d like to see us reach. Members of Congress have an opportunity to show the nation what true bipartisan leadership can look like. After all, equality is not a Democratic or Republican value; it’s an American value. It’s what allows each of us to enjoy our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
John Fluharty is the former executive director of the Delaware Republican Party. He lives in Philadelphia.