Today is National Voter Registration Day. It’s an opportunity to take part in our democracy and to give voice to the issues important to LGBTQ people and all Americans. At least two million eligible LGBTQ Americans are not registered to vote, and as many as one-in-four eligible Americans are not registered to vote. Now is the time register, or check your registration status if you’re currently registered.
LGBTQ Americans are on track to become one of the fastest growing voting blocs in the country, as the segment of the U.S. adult population who are LGBTQ continues to grow. Polling and turnout analysis from the 2020 election indicate that LGBTQ voters played a deciding role in the victory of Joe Biden for President and in key battleground states, flipping states Donald Trump had won in 2016.
In a year of unprecedented attacks against LGBTQ people, we must remember that the attacks are coming from a small group of vocal extremists because our self-advocacy is working and our vote can be powerful.
In our ongoing quest for equality and justice, LGBTQ Americans have fought and made incredible strides, and we are showing up in ever-increasing numbers in every way, including at the ballot box. Nearly 21% of Gen Z is LGBTQ and nearly 1-in-7 voters are expected to be LGBTQ by 2030. Our growing visibility and freedom to be ourselves is rightfully celebrated, harms no one, and inspires growth for each LGBTQ person and for our communities.
Even so, the challenges we now confront are very real. LGBTQ Americans face increased threats and deadly violence against ourselves and our allies, and discrimination and hateful rhetoric from elected officials including record-high numbers of harmful bills in state legislatures this year bills targeting LGBTQ people and youth, their healthcare, books, and even conversation in schools. Lies about LGBTQ people and our allies are spread on social media and incite real-life violence. Transgender people and youth in particular are relentlessly targeted for derision and exclusion, led by politicians who see it as a campaign strategy.
The loud, hateful rhetoric is meant to obscure the fact that the public is on the side of LGBTQ rights. A record-high majority of American support same-sex marriage rights—but you’d never know it if you only turn on Fox News or read the views of anti-LGBTQ politicians. The overwhelming medical consensus is that healthcare for transgender people saves lives, and every major medical association supports such care, yet lawmakers in many states are attempting to legalize discrimination in healthcare and their unsubstantiated talking points have infected social media.
We must have pro-equality elected officials in place to guard against the erosion of rights that even the Supreme Court is signaling it’s ready for. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have repeatedly threatened the Obergefell decision, jeopardizing the future of the right to marry. Overturning the Roe decision and decades of protections for private healthcare decisions has thrown the right to our personal healthcare into doubt. And it threatens assisted reproduction, jeopardizing expanded opportunity to become parents for straight and LGBTQ people alike. All couples—whether of the same-sex, opposite sex, same race, different races—want the freedom to marry who they love, and decide when and how to start a family. Local legislation must be passed to protect LGBTQ people, and at the national level, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to ensure comprehensive federal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide, including in housing, education, public accommodations and access to credit. Though the Equality Act passed the U.S. House twice, it continues to be stalled in a divided Congress.
Gen Z is the generation most eager to fight for economic and environmental justice, for LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, for healthcare, for an end to the gun violence epidemic, and for the right to an education, and many will have the opportunity for the first time to vote in 2023 and 2024.
The power of the individual vote was made clear in the 2022 midterms that bucked the historical pendulum swing when voters rejected anti-trans messages and the anti-democratic Big Lie. And it was felt this year in Ohio when voters sent a clear message that they believe in one person, one vote, and its reverberations will be felt when abortion rights are on that state’s ballot in November.
Between now and the election, talk with your families, friends, and communities about the issues, about the freedoms at stake and on the ballot this election for all of us. We need our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates to vote for leaders who support the reality that LGBTQ people exist, are welcomed and beloved, and belong in all areas of life. And then mark your calendars for elections in your district.
We have demonstrated our incredible power to shape elections. Let us use it to shape a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow for us all.
Sarah Kate Ellis is President and CEO of GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization.