200+ community centers issue letter denouncing state anti-LGBTQ+ bills

The letter highlights that this year has seen more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation submitted by state legislators than the prior five years put together. It cites 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills on state dockets, with 362 of them specifically attacking the transgender community. Such laws enforce discriminatory bathroom bans, censor or even make illegal drag shows, prevent transgender students from participating in school sporting events, force teachers to out students, eliminate school curriculum around LGBTQ+ and racial issues, attempt to allow states to put restrictions on same-sex marriages, erase LGBTQ+ people from schools and the public sphere, and prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care or even force them to de-gender.

A record number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws proposed in state legislatures this year have sparked condemnation in an open letter signed by at least 222 LGBTQ+ community centers and organizations across the United States. CenterLink, the national network of LGBTQ+ community centers, released a statement that their facilities serve more than 51,800 individuals weekly, or roughly 2.7 million people annually. The letter, which denounces the surge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, will be addressed to the White House, various federal government agencies, and the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in Congress. It was signed by several organizations such as the Rainbow Families coalition, Sexual Minority Adolescents Action League, Us Giving Richmond Connections, Roanoke Diversity Center, Shenandoah LGBTQ+ Center, Delmarva Pride Center in Easton, Maryland, and CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ+ community center in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

These laws pose a threat to the lives of LGBTQ+ people. As the letter highlights, the LGBTQ+ community is fighting for its existence. Despite experiencing anti-LGBTQ+ threats or harassment over the past two years, the LGBTQ+ center community has remained steadfast in its aims.

According to CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak, many LGBTQ+ centers act as the primary organizer of LGBTQ+ Pride activities in their own communities. All of them, if not all, offer some form of assistance for Pride celebrations. While she was unaware of any specific threats made against Pride activities this year, she expressed confidence that event organizers, including LGBTQ+ community centers, would make preparations for adequate security.

The letter encourages LGBTQ+ people and their allies to get in touch with their nearest LGBTQ+ community center, where they may volunteer or make a financial contribution to help the center continue providing essential services. It also advises people to register and vote for lawmakers who support equality for all Americans.

Spivak stated that CenterLink is still accepting signatures from LGBTQ+ centers. Even though the original publication date for the letter was May 9, she mentioned that two new signatures came in on May 8. She emphasized that just because someone is not listed does not mean they do not support the letter’s intent; they have not committed to it yet.

While the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ+ Community, the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the D.C. region, has not signed on to the letter as of May 8, several organizations have shown their support. The Rainbow Families coalition and the Sexual Minority Adolescents Action League in D.C. are among those that signed the letter. Us Giving Richmond Connections, a Richmond, Virginia-based group that has organized Black LGBTQ+ Pride events, also signed the letter, along with the Roanoke Diversity Center, the Shenandoah LGBTQ+ Center, the Delmarva Pride Center in Easton, Maryland, and CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ+ community center in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

CenterLink will not immediately distribute copies of the letter to state legislators who have supported anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, according to Spivak. However, the organization will post it publicly and provide a hard copy to all of its centers, which can distribute it as they see fit.