(NewsNation) — LGBTQ visibility in Washington continues to evolve as the issue polarizes American politics.
For the first time, the Human Rights Campaign, which fights for LGBTQ rights, has declared what they’re calling a “state of emergency” after a rise in anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures around the country.
According to the HRC, there have been more than 525 such bills introduced just this year.
NewsNation’s Washington Bureau chief Michael Viqueira said this has become a major political issue on both the right and the left.
During the so-called Lavender Scare, which erupted during World War II, homosexuality was unjustly perceived as a national security threat, leading to the dismissal of approximately 5,000 gay and lesbian workers from federal government jobs. Moreover, many others were barred from even applying.
The prevalent belief at the time was that individuals with same-sex attraction would go to great lengths, even compromising national security, to protect their supposedly “deep, dark, terrible secret.”
Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, continues to be remembered as a pioneer in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Milk’s groundbreaking advocacy in the late 1970s came just three years after the federal government began allowing gay people to serve openly in civil service. His legacy serves as a reminder of the progress made in the struggle for equality, despite the challenges faced along the way.
Democratic Vermont Rep. Becca Balint, Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign and TV anchor Thomas Roberts joined “On Balance With Leland Vittert” to discuss the evolution of LGBTQ visibility in Washington.
Roberts, who publicly came out in 2006 as one of the first news anchors to do so, acknowledges that the journey has not been without challenges.
“There wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, social media, things where presidents tweeted congratulations or anything,” Roberts said.
The impact of LGBTQ+ role models cannot be underestimated. Vermont’s Balint recounts the lack of role models during the 1980s.
“It wasn’t until my 40s,” Balint said, “when my wife said to me, you really should do the thing that you always wanted to do.”
Robinson, an advocate for transgender rights, said that opponents exploit the lack of familiarity to create fear and chaos.
“It is important to know that the story isn’t all bleak,” she said. “But what we are seeing is a massive wave of backlash to the progress that we’ve made so far.”
Watch the full report in the video player at the top of the page.