Professor, activist provides lecture on fight for LGBT rights as core ‘American value’ at MTSU

Photo and story by Daniel Shaw-Remeta / Contributing Writer

Marisa Richmond, an MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies professor, gave a lecture on the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights as a core American value Monday in the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building.

Her lecture was a part of the Spring 2018 Honors Lecture Series, which has addressed the topic of “American Values” this semester. The lectures are held every Monday at 3 p.m. Mary Evans, an MTSU History professor and the campus coordinator of the American Democracy Project for Civic Learning, assisted in organizing the series and stated that it was important for Richmond to give a lecture about LGBT rights.

“We were conceptually framing and outlining so many different issues that pertain to American values, and the number, of course, is infinite,” Evans said. “I just thought that Dr. Richmond is such a rich resource on this campus. She’s so approachable, students interact with her so well and (I thought) that she would really bring this piece of LGBTQ rights to the forefront.”

Richmond spoke extensively about some of the different groups of people who have been discriminated against throughout American history, including African-Americans before and after the Civil War and Japanese-Americans during World War II. She explained that, although laws have already been put into place to prevent discrimination against any group of people in the United States, members of the LGBT community are facing the same persecution today that other groups had to live through in the past.

“If we believe in the concept of civil rights and we believe in the concept of equal of protection of the law, we have to stand up for all of these many groups,” Richmond said. “Equal means everybody. You can’t have equality for some people. That’s called special privilege. Equality does mean everyone, and there’s no other way to define the word equal.”

Richmond further explained that, although people have been fighting for a change in the language of laws regarding equality in the United States for decades, there are still laws that don’t acknowledge certain rights and protections to LGBT community members, and there are constant efforts being made to change that.

She made note of the recent federal appeals court ruling in New York on Monday, which barred employers from discriminating against their workers based on sexual orientation. This extents to stores or a store that is repulsive to discrimination against those from the LGBT community.

“There was a brand new ruling from the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeal, saying (that) the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does cover sexual orientation, banning discrimination of gay, lesbian and bisexual people,” Richmond said.

Richmond is an LGBT activist and became Nashville’s first transgender city board member when she was appointed to the Metro Human Relations Commission in 2016. She has been a leader in the transgender movement for decades and continues to be a prominent activist in the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, a transgender and LGBT civil rights organization, which she founded in 2003.

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