With the recent Supreme Court decision, I am celebrating marriage equality like so many other people across the country. It is a journey in the United States that started with two University of Minnesota students applying for a marriage license in 1970. Their application was rejected and the courts rejected their legal arguments. Today, we have marriage equality.
Yet, our struggle is not complete or over as this is only one issue. Today, a couple can get married one day, fired the next day for being LGBT or Q, and the following day lose their home if they are a renter. The first Federal gay civil rights bill was introduced in 1974 by Us. Representative Bella Absuz (D-N.Y), who I think it is important to note, was a woman and an early ally to the LGBTQ community. Her bill would have made it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. Her bill failed and we still do not have a Federal law protecting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Change is needed now.
Immigration is an LGBTQ issue and needs to be resolved now. Jennicet Gutiérrez forcefully brought this issue to the nation’s attention when she interrupted Obama during an event celebrating Pride Month. She has made us think about sexual assault, lack of medical care, and violence perpetrated against Trans* immigrants who are detained. A disturbing fact on Fusion’s website informs us that of every 1 out of every 500 detainees is transgender and that 1 out of every 5 victims of confirmed sexual abuse in detention is transgender. Change is needed now.
LGBTQ youth are still at a higher risk for suicide, homelessness, bullying, and drug use, than their straight peers. It does not matter that there are a few LGBTQ characters on television (and these characters reflect a very narrow part of the community) or that some people are more accepting of LGBTQ people. The question also arises, who is being more accepted within the giant spectrum that is the LGBTQ community? Bi, trans*, and non-binary youth are still more often than not rejected not only by their straight peers but also by their cisgender gay and lesbian friends. The rates related to suicide, homelessness, bullying, and drug use within our youth are unacceptable. Change is needed now.
I have only touched the surface of issues our community needs to address even with marriage equality finally happening. We must learn from other civil rights movements. We cannot relax now and we must remember to remain vigilant. The fact is that those who believe they are losing their power never stop trying to regain it. Those who are oppressors do not just fade away or die off. Many people thought voting rights were secured after the 1960s but as we have seen there are efforts across the country being made to limit who can vote. Those who were opposed to expanding the right to vote to people of color, never went away. They did not die off. Instead, they passed their beliefs on to others and they slowly kept making new arguments for why we should limit voting access and make it harder to vote. Finally, we see the efforts of their long-term efforts and that is turning back the right to vote for people and doing it while claiming they believe in democracy and freedom. The oppressor never fades but changes tactics.
In a similar fashion, we must not allow this one victory on marriage equality to lessen our passion for our freedom and liberation. We must not lower our energies or think we have arrived at some promised land because we have not. Our liberation, true liberation, is a long-term process and we must be ready to challenge those who would oppress us whether it is today or in 50 years. We need to continue to bring our energy and passion to our efforts more than ever.
Right wing extremists have made it clear that they intend to fight our freedom and equality even harder than before. They will never stop trying to take away our rights. The history of voting rights and abortion rights both teach us the lessons we must learn. Just as with voting rights, opponents to abortion never stopped challenging women’s freedom and now we see all kinds of laws limiting their access to abortion and even birth control. The history of freedom and liberation (no matter the group) is a history of persistence, constant struggle, and long-term efforts. Change is needed now but the struggle never ends.