In honor of the Fourth of July, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of five underreported accomplishments Americans and progressives can be proud of as we celebrate the nation’s independence:
Domestic workers are receiving much-needed protections.
Just this week, Hawaii became the second state in the nation to pass protections for domestic workers. Nannies, housekeepers, and home health aides often don’t get the same basic protections that office workers do. Twenty-three percent of such workers report being paid less than minimum wage. They also report suffering on-the-job injuries, enduring a lack of sleep thanks to their work, contracting health problems from performing their jobs, and being yelled at by their employers. A movement for a Domestic Workers’ Bill Of Rights is working to change that, and it seems to be making a dent: Aside from Hawaii and New York, states like Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Ohio, and Texas are all considering laws to protect domestic workers.
States have woken up to the dangers of gun violence.
This year, 10 state legislatures have recognized that 11,000 people are killed in gun homicides every year, and passed stronger laws to regulate firearms. Colorado, Delaware, and Connecticut all signed universal background checks into law. More conservative states, like Georgia and Wyoming, rejected extreme measures that would have expanded where guns can be carried and who can carry them.
A forward march for paid leave policies.
America may be an outlier for not having any federal laws guaranteeing workers paid time off for sickness or a new child, but states are taking matters into their own hands. New York City recently became the biggest city with a paid sick leave law, joining Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC; Portland, Oregon; and the state of Connecticut. Plus Rhode Island is about to become the third state in the country to offer paid family leave so that new parents and those caring for sick loved ones can take time off without losing income.
The DOMA decision is fueling a new push for marriage equality.
Not only did the Supreme Court strike down the federal ban against recognizing same-sex marriage, but that historic decision has had another major effect: It’s inspiring states to renew their own fights to pass marriage equality laws. Activists in Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Arkansas are moving closer to making marriage equality a reality in their home states. Countless other activists around the country are collecting signatures to make sure that, one day soon, every state will give equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.
Transgender people can change their Social Security record’s gender identity.
In June, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that it is now much easier for trans people to change their gender identity on their Social Security records. All that will now be required, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, is for individuals to submit government-issued documentation reflecting a gender change, or a certification from a physician confirming they have undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. The previous policy required documentation of complete sex reassignment surgery, which many trans people never undergo.
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