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Volume 35
Issue 14
 
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Reproductive freedom & LGBT rights: We are stronger when we work together
Reproductive freedom & LGBT rights: We are stronger when we work together
by Lisa Walls - SGN Contributing Writer

Last week's Pharmacy Board hearing made big headlines in the state, and was illustrative of how important it is for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and reproductive rights advocates to maintain a united front. There are many who would deny us access to healthcare, reproductive technology, abortion rights and contraception; these rights are related to the right to privacy, established by the 1965 landmark Supreme Court case Griswald vs. Connecticut (details below). We all deserve a life free from the government (and pharmacists) peering into our private affairs.

A SHORT LEGAL HISTORY
Same-sex intimacy between consenting adults, previously outlawed in some states, became legal with the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas. Prior to 2003, the Supreme Court had upheld the legality of a Georgia law against anal and oral sex. In the 1986 case, Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court said the right to privacy did not extend to sexual activities between two consenting adults if those two people happened to be of the same sex. Bowers excluded people in same-sex relationships from legal protections. The right to privacy for two married, heterosexual people was upheld in 1965; the Griswold v. Connecticut ruling regarded a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives. The 1965 decision became the starting point of limiting the U.S. Government's role in its citizens' sexual lives. A ruling seven years later, in 1972, Eisenstadt v. Baird, allowed unmarried heterosexual couples access to birth control. (Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion, came one year later.)

The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling recognized that two adults of the same sex have a constitutionally protected right to engage in intimate sexual relations without fear of prosecution. The decision cited the 1972 Eisenstadt decision. The rationale for the Lawrence case mentioned previous decisions regarding reproductive rights. These rights set up a framework for the ruling that all adults have a right to consensual sexual activity. The gay rights community and the reproductive rights community share a common goal in preserving these rights from constant attack by the radical right, which seeks to impose its often sectarian values through civil law.

Teresa Connor, Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood, said, "Our movements share a common legal basis and it should be no surprise that we're attacked by common foes. It's essential that LGBT and reproductive rights advocates work together to protect our rights to make important life decisions. Planned Parenthood is committed to sexually healthy communities, individual privacy, and personal freedom. That's why we're committed to opposing discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender, and we support efforts to protect against such discrimination."

Supporters of the proposed new rules for pharmacists (that they be required to fill a prescription no matter what belief system they subscribe to), and many of the attendees at last week's hearing, were from both LGBT and reproductive rights organizations. The radical right's agenda to control reproductive liberty and intimate relations "ignores scientific evidence of the effectiveness of harm reduction and safer-sex practices in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease," according to Causes in Common, a national organizing initiative that brings together activists from the gay rights and reproductive justice movements. Equal Rights Washington (ERW) joined Causes in Common in 2006, a move consistent with its value of coalition building, meeting the needs of a diverse LGBT community, and working together with the reproductive rights community toward shared goals. During this past year, ERW and has worked more closely with reproductive justice organizations.

The proposed new rules for Washington State pharmacists isn't the only issue for which LGBT and reproductive rights activists share an interest. According to ERW's Advocacy Director Josh Friedes, the Healthy Youth Act, HPV vaccine legislation, and the Domestic Partnership bill are three other pieces of legislation important to both the reproductive rights movement and the LGBT community. Our communities overlap; we are strongest when working in coalition.

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