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#2022APPAM Blog: Super Session - A Roundtable Discussion on the State of LGBTQ Rights: Perspectives from Multiple Disciplines


Isabel McMullen
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Five remarkable panelists shared their perspectives on the state of LGBTQ rights during Thursday’s final super-session. Kitt Carpenter from Vanderbilt University moderated a panel of researchers, policymakers, and advocates, each with distinct disciplinary perspectives on the current direction of the movement, and different hopes and concerns for the future of LGBTQ rights in the U.S. 

The panelists all shared a blended sense of optimism and concern about recent political and legal developments including the results of the recent midterm elections. Amy Nelson, head of legal services at the Whitman-Walker health center noted the outsized impact that youth voters had in turning out for civil rights candidates and causes across electoral races. Far from a “red wave”, political scientists and professor Andrew Flores noted the “rainbow wave” of over 300 LGBTQ candidates winning offices this term across the country. 

From the legal perspective, Matthew Shaw, a constitutional law professor at Vanderbilt University, noted the potential implications for LGBTQ rights from the Dobbs decision. With a touch of optimism, he pointed out that any undoing of reliance on precedent as a legal concept may also open doors for advocates, policymakers, and researchers to build better and more inclusive policies. 

Many panelists also highlighted the importance of research to their policy work. Olivia Hunt from the National Center for Transgender Equality described the importance of evidence from the U.S. Trans Survey. These data bolster the ability of advocates to alter media narratives and ultimately push forward regulations - the backbone of much of the LGBTQ advocacy movement. Laura Durso, founder of the research-policy company Harmonic Strategies, echoed that research is imperative for countering misinformation and positively shaping the policy conversation around LGBTQ rights. 

The panelists ended their discussion with a call to the room - as policy researchers, we must strive to tailor both the topic and methods of our work to be as relevant and useful for policymakers as possible. 

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