Friday, July 12, 2024

Benches seen Monday and crosswalk striping at City Hall are rainbow colored for LGBTQ+ pride. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Amid fears about the growing threat to gay and transgender rights posed in legislatures and courts across the country, city councillors turned their attention Monday to supporting LGBTQ+ residents, approving three measures unanimously.

The LGBTQ+ community “is becoming more and more vulnerable every day,” said vice mayor Alanna Mallon, who wrote one measure and, with Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, cosponsored two others by councillor E. Denise Simmons.

Mallon pointed to some states’ denial of life-affirming health care to transgender children, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed recently in Florida that prohibits school instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity, and various bans of certain books with LGBTQ+ characters.

The recent leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade will be overturned, weakening the right to abortions, raises questions of whether other landmark protections would be next, Mallon said. Decisions on same-sex marriage such as Obergefell v. Hodges from 2015 could be vulnerable to the same arguments being used to undermine Roe: that the rights don’t exist in the U.S. Constitution.

The developments, taken together, are an “assault” on LGBTQ+ people, Simmons said.

The first policy order asks the city manager to give an update on efforts to provide LGBTQ+-friendly housing in the city. Simmons said the service has been discussed in the city since around 2015 without results, while a similar project is underway in Boston to turn a former Hyde Park middle school into 74 units of housing.

This kind of housing provides valuable community particularly for elderly and black and brown LGBTQ+ people, Simmons said.

Another order asks that the city manager hire an executive director solely for the city’s LGBTQ+ Commission. The advocate for health and well-being currently shares a director with the Immigrant Rights and Citizenship Commission and Human Rights Commission.

A director who works exclusively for the LGBTQ+ Commission would be able to help institute services such as the housing Simmons seeks, Mallon said. The director could also help make the city “a refuge for transgender children and their families from other states” by affirming children will get the health care they need, as well as by providing legal help and mental health services.

The council also adopted an order seeking to restart Kate’s Café, a program that held monthly dinners for LGBTQ+ people beginning in 2010 but was discontinued during the pandemic.

“LGBTQ+ seniors are feeling particularly isolated,” Simmons said. “These dinners … really help our community to feel connected.”