Vote Because Our Freedom Literally Depends On It

Next month on November 7 is Pennsylvania’s municipal elections. As a reminder, local elections often take place every year, and a “municipal” election refers to those falling on odd-numbered years, like this one, where there are no federal or state offices on the ballot. As always, polls will be open on election day from 7 A.M. – 8 P.M., while the last day to register to vote is October 23, 2023, and the last day to request a mail-in or absentee ballot is October 31, 7 days before the election. Voted ballots must be received by Election Day in order to be counted.

Local elections make a great deal of difference when it comes to the affairs that shape our daily lives, with one particular element being the seats of those who judge our courts. In reality, the battle for the courts is the most pressing issue facing the LGBTQIA+ community today. The courts have been the heartbeat and backbone of the civil rights movement for queer people before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015, which extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the United States, strengthened their legal standing in a number of ways, and made inheritance from one spouse to another much easier.

The courts are the reason why queer couples can inherit property, adopt families, open business and have privacy with their partners. While artists, activists, and organizers have done the grassroots work to change culture and uplift issues to the forefront of our social commentary, it is the courts that have determined queer individuals actually have rights which removed state violence and surveillance from our lives.  

Despite the progress scaled in these past decades, the frameworks that support our free living remain fragile. Today, here in Pennsylvania, the same rights our elders have fought for are still under attack. There has been a groundswell of support to roll back each and every right queer people have found in the past few decades. In a concurring opinion of Dobbs. V Jackson’s Womens Health Organization–the Supreme Court case that revoked the constitutional right to an abortion–Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” undermining landmark cases that gave LGBT individuals rights including the right to privacy and the rights to engage in consensual sex without arrest.  

Without the security of our Constitution, the ways in which queer people will be able to live and thrive will come down to local protections that will be upheld through the courts. In turn, our municipal elections will become even more crucial to make sure we have elected seats on our side of the table. It is so important that queer voters understand the importance of these courts and participate in judicial elections to ensure that sound rights, privileges, and responsibilities are codified for LGBTQIA individuals. 

In truth, each election should not be “an election for our lives.” We should be able to live, love, and thrive without the fear of going back into the dark ages. But as queer individuals, we do not have the luxury of feeling protected by government policies. Each and every election will depend on whether or not we are able to live full lives which includes having access to healthcare, the ability to get married, the ability to have children, And the ability to retire with our significant others. The reality for LGBTQ individuals is that until our rights are codified into law, we must mobilize and vote in these elections because our freedom literally depends on it.

Miracle Jones and Ethan Rhabb are queer, Black staff members at 1Hood Media where they work in building and expanding democracy access in Pennsylvania.