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VIEWS Hobby Lobby already affects LGBTs
by Nicole Erin Morse
2014-07-23

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Since the Supreme Court announced its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, I've encountered many conversations in person and in print about the decision's impact on our community.

However, too many people are asking the wrong question. Editorials ask "if" or "how" the Hobby Lobby decision "might" impact LGBTQ people, ignoring the members of our community who have been affected by the decision from the moment it was handed down. For LGBTQ people with uteruses, access to contraceptives is often a medical necessity. We need to acknowledge that even the allegedly "narrow" ruling that the Supreme Court announced June 30 permits discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Asking if, when or how the Hobby Lobby decision will impact the LGBTQ community implies that contraceptive access is not a queer issue. However, this is simply not borne out by the facts. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 99 percent of people with uteruses in the United States use birth control at some point in their lives; queer people are undoubtedly represented in that population.

For some LGBTQ people, hormonal contraceptives serve additional purposes besides birth control. When Sandra Fluke gained national attention in 2012 for her fight against Georgetown University's religiously-based denial of contraceptive coverage, she told the story of a lesbian student who needed oral contraceptives to control ovarian cysts. When this lesbian woman was no longer able to afford to pay for contraceptives out-of-pocket, she ended up requiring surgery that compromised her fertility. There are many reasons, including preventing pregnancy, that LGBTQ people with uteruses need affordable access to contraceptives.

It is simply not possible to talk about LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights as separate spheres. As Kimberlé Crenshaw pointed out in developing the concept of intersectionality, specifically in opposition to white feminists' demands that sexism should be understood as an issue separate from racism, an individual's identities and experiences cannot be cleanly divided up and separately addressed. For bisexual cis women with cis male partners, bisexual rights and reproductive rights are closely intertwined. When Jennifer C. Pizer, writing for Lambda Legal, asserts that the court's ruling represents a blow to women's rights but does not yet affect the rights of LGBTQ people, this framing essentially supposes that there is no overlap between the groups of "women" and "LGBTQ people," as well as assuming that all people who are affected by the Hobby Lobby decision are women ( "What the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Decision Means for LGBT People," July 8 ).

This specific conversation will soon be irrelevant. Some religious groups are already seeking exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on the Hobby Lobby decision, and George Fox University has been granted a religious exemption from Title IX that allows them to exclude a trans student from campus housing. Yet, too often LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights are discussed as if they are entirely separate issues. As long as there are LGBTQ people with uteruses and ovaries, contraceptive access and reproductive rights are LGBTQ rights.

Nicole Erin Morse is a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago and a clinic escort with Illinois Choice Action Team.


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