Jesse Tyler Ferguson: "We Should Vote Like Our Rights Depend on It" (Guest Column)

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Children's Hospital Los Angeles

The 'Modern Family' star and ACLU ambassador takes you to brunch (sort of) as he urges support for candidates who will fight for LGBTQ people and against "the nightmare that is the Trump administration."

If you and I were brunching this weekend, you would hear me and my friends talking about why the 2018 election matters. Yes, there's more to brunching in L.A. than avocado toast and overnight oats. We'd talk about the nightmare that is the Trump administration and its daily attacks on minority communities, including LGBTQ Americans — like the recent threats to legally define gender, or refusing protections in the workplace, access to education, basic health care, and housing. All the progress made in the past decade is under attack. People who have chosen to serve this country in the military are being denied that opportunity just because they are transgender.

About two mimosas in, you'd hear my lightweight friend shout, "Why isn't anyone keeping this administration accountable?!" Yes, he got tipsy way too fast, but here's what I would try and explain to him: There are so many progressive candidates for Congress that would love to fight back against discrimination by supporting the Equality Act. We need to support these candidates and elect them to office to finally ensure full federal equality for all Americans. This Equality Act would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in all 50 states while expanding federal protections for women and people of color. Right now, 30 states lack explicit and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people. In these states you can get married on Saturday and fired from your job on Monday simply because of whom you love.

You were probably expecting something different from brunch with the fun gay guy from Modern Family, and I promise I am a ton of fun. But I'm also frustrated and worried. In the last election more than 40 percent of eligible voters refused to do their part. They refused to vote!

The current administration, and Donald Trump himself, has emboldened opponents of equality in states and communities around the country. So grab another Bloody Mary or cup of coffee, and let's talk local tea. ("Tea" is slang for "gossip" or "juicy news." You're welcome.)

Your vote may determine who sits on school boards that make important decisions impacting LGBTQ students in your community — your children and their friends. While only 7 percent of the general youth population identify as LGBTQ, queer young people account for 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness. That is heartbreaking. We need leaders at every level to solve these issues. And the obsession over which restroom transgender people should use is likely to continue when state legislatures convene. My obsession with perfectly seasoned shakshuka — and this extended metaphor — is much more respectable.

Not only do we need to vote, we need to vote like our rights depend on it … because they do. If you want representatives that actually represent your values — those who commit to protect our democracy, end discrimination, expand rights and ensure that we live in a nation with liberty and justice for all — then you should join me in pledging to be an #ACLUVoter.

Perhaps this year we can spend a little more time looking over our ballots than the menu. I'd recommend not ordering the bigot.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson is an actor, ACLU Ambassador and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Tie the Knot.