Despite the recent momentum behind marriage equality, LGBT people still have a ways to go to achieve full equality. There are still no explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, which means they can be legally fired in more than half the states in the country simply because they are LGBT. The 2 million children being raised by LGBT parents are left economically vulnerable under antiquated laws and family policies, and LGBT youth face burdens of biased school policies, homelessness, and over-criminalization.
All of these issues are compounded for LGBT people of color like myself and are exacerbated for LGBT people living in the South. More than half of the 19 states that have no LGBT-inclusive laws or protections whatsoever are located in the South, including Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia -- states that were covered under the Voting Rights Act preclearance statute, but began moving forward with laws to restrict voting less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court's decision to strike it down.
This stifling of the democratic process will make it more difficult to upend the layers of anti-gay laws on the books in these states and others across the South. Progress will require the election of fresh pro-equality lawmakers who will vote to repeal constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, and who will enact laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing. It will require an electorate ready to thwart or support relevant ballot measures as necessary. In short, it will be even more difficult to achieve the full freedom to work or to marry without the unobstructed freedom to vote.
The voter-suppression tactics that were successfully blocked by VRA's preclearance requirement last year were clearly aimed at disenfranchising the "rising American electorate" -- the growing coalition of people of color, millennials, and others voters who are more likely to support progressive candidates and causes in general and LGBT rights in particular.
Recent polls show that a majority of millennial, black, and Hispanic voters now support marriage equality. Other surveys show that African Americans also demonstrate close to unanimous support for basic equal rights for LGBT people and believe it's important to solve the issues of housing and workplace discrimination, bullying, and hate crimes that persist.
And these would-be voters don't just believe in these issues, they show up at the polls to elect candidates who share their values, especially African American voters. During the 2012 presidential election African Americans turned out in enormous numbers, casting a higher percentage of votes than white voters for the first time on record. Ninety-four percent of these votes went to President Obama, with the vast majority going to like-minded lawmakers down-ballot who support LGBT rights. Black voters also helped to usher in marriage equality in Maryland, demonstrating their highest levels of support at the polls to date.