On Monday, the It Gets Better Project celebrated its tenth anniversary. I’ve had the honor of serving as the Project’s board chair since its inception a decade ago. I’m also a lawyer and longtime advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s clear to me that the it gets better message remains as relevant now as it was when Dan and Terry’s video first went viral. This week in particular, we would all do well to remind ourselves of the it gets better message as the sad news sinks in of the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a stalwart champion of rights for the underrepresented.
There is much to celebrate about Justice Ginsburg’s incredible life and legacy, but for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to acknowledge that the groundwork she laid as a crusading lawyer in seminal human rights cases years ago is, without question, the jurisprudential bedrock upon which major LGBTQ+ victories in the federal courts continue to be built years later.
Without Justice Ginsburg’s remarkable and amazingly creative work battling sex discrimination, there would be no Romer v. Evans in 1996 (affording equal protection to the LGBTQ+ community in finding a discriminatory Colorado law unconstitutional); no Boy Scouts v. Dale, also in ’96 (finding that private organizations can’t discriminate against LGBTQ people); no Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 (overruling Bowers v. Hardwick and eliminating discriminatory sodomy laws); no US v. Windsor in 2013 (affirming the rights of the late, great Edie Windsor in eliminating portions of the Defense of Marriage Act and paving the way toward marriage equality); no Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 (affirming marriage equality); and no Bostock v. Clayton County earlier this year (at long last finding that federal civil rights laws protect transgender employees).
Justice Ginsburg was a member of the Court for every one of these decisions, writing passionate opinions of her own and consistently siding with the LGBTQ+ community. But, her voice didn’t always win the day and there’s a long way still to go for our legal rights. In 2018, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor were the lone dissenters in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which held that, while the LGBTQ+ community has marriage equality, that doesn’t necessarily prevent private businesses from discriminating against same-sex couples on purported religious grounds, such as by refusing to bake their wedding cakes.
Hope is, of course, never lost. We know that it will get better, but Justice Ginsburg’s passing should inspire and energize us rather than slow us down. There’s work to do, and young people around the world routinely inspire and emerge as leaders. The It Gets Better Project will continue to celebrate their efforts and act as a beacon of support. I, for one, am eager to see all the amazing progress that will undoubtedly emerge from this moment.
– Seth Levy, Chairman, It Gets Better Project Board of Directors