Today, the Supreme Court of the United States of America made two crucial decisions regarding the equal treatment of citizens. Both were very narrow and actually focused more on legal issues other than the actual equal protection of citizen once they reached the high court, but that’s neither here, nor there, the result is essentially the same in terms of rights recognized. Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act is invalidated and California’s Proposition 8 problem is returned to the California Courts that previously invalidated the law.
I am happy for this. It is these small victories that make me happy to be a U.S. Citizen. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still disappointment that we lag behind other counties in establishing rights and permitting freedoms to our citizens, but progress is progress and for that, I am grateful.
“I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice, at least they were remote, but now misery has come home and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s blood”
– Mary Shelley
There are those who will deride the court’s decisions saying it’s too progressive or too liberal. neither of which is really true. The court actually took a very passive stance on the social issue by showing excessive restraint in making such narrow decisions but because it wasn’t the decision “they” want to hear the neysayers are accusing the court of bias. The only bias on the court was Scalia’s shady use of personal opinion wrapped in his firebrand of legalese when he delivered a scathing descent that some conservatives didn’t even agree with.
There are those who clamor this is a waste of time and resources when the government should be focused on the economy and jobs instead. They are also the ones who failed 8th grade civics class when it was discussed what the powers of the different branches of government actually covered and controlled. If they want to help out jobs they need to look the current free market system and how the participants in it are earning significant revenue gains and turning profits while not contributing to the growth of the labor force or the non-corportized economy and realize the actual, limited affect the government, particularly in this case the judicial branch and most specifically the SCOTUS, currently has on the free market landscape (if anything, the court has provided enormous assistance for business already).
There are those who complain that gains made by a minority to reach equality are somehow infringing on their rights. The hollow words that were also used during immigration boom in the late 1880s/early 1900s, during women’s suffrage, during the Civil War, during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, during the westward settlement expansion, during the Unionization movement, and so on. No one’s rights are really being infringed on other than the already oppressed group. This is about power and dominance and by equalizing rights the perceived power and dominance is lost, not the inherent rights themselves.
There are those who have more correctly noted, “If any one of us is not free than none of us are really free.”
Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer rights are human rights. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are just as important as the rights granted to every other protected class such as Race, Ethnicity, National origin, Age, Gender Disability status and Familial status, Veteran status, Religion, Creed and so on. To treat a citizen, a fellow human being different simply because the are say homosexual rather than heterosexual is no different than treating someone different because they are an Irish Catholic Young Single Woman rather than a Protestant English Veteran Elderly Married Man. As a country every time we’ve done away with a level of a caste or stata and moved toward equality our country has become stronger and more viable. This should be no different.
Although I am happy for the LGBT citizens in California who should be able to resume equal treatment in society in terms of marriage and related family law within their State and for those LGBT citizens nationwide who reside in States that either outright support equality or are living in States that offer acknowledgement of their Civil Marriages executed in other States, there’s still much to be done.
Despite what the rhetoric would have you believe, there’s no legit reason for opposing marriage equality and I’ve never met anyone who has presented anything that resembled a fair and rational argument in the basis of U.S. Law (the only thing that really counts when discussing the Government’s obligation to it’s Citizens) to explain to me otherwise, while every other opinion about traditional marriage as a reason to deny marriage equality is easily debunked.
Marriages might be the most visual representation of equal rights for LGBTQ citizens but it is likely not the most vital to the majority of their lives, particularly because two egregious laws strip them of basic rights that undermine their marriages:
First, Equal Opportunity Employment rights are not guaranteed to to LGBQ citizens in 29 states, and, what’s more is termination of employment is legal on the suspicion of being gay meaning it’s entirely possible (albeit most unlikely) a heterosexual could be terminated from an existing position (or disqualified during the application process) simply because they were perceived to be homosexual. The 29 offenders are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. 34 states have no protections for gender identity. Furthermore, within the law for some jurisdictions not only is Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity not included as a protected class for equality, LGBTQ are (in)directly singled out for persecution in the way the law is written.
ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act) would extend protected class status to LGBTQ citizens treating them equatable and fairly when it comes to gaining and maintaining quality employment. In some cases, depending on the wording ENDA would also extend other workplace related protections ensuring the daily work experience for a LGBTQ is the same as that of their heterosexual and cysgendered. If that were not the case, additional protections either from the governmental level or within the organization’s rulebook should be created to ensure equal treatment. Ideally these protections would exist at a Federal level rather than creating a patchwork of State and locally sponsored laws (which is the situation you see now), so multi-State employers and an ever growing transient workforce would find stability the the regulatory landscape.
Second, is housing. The Fair Housing Act does not treat either gender identity or sexual orientation as a protected class and does not provide equality for LBGTQ citizens when purchasing, renting, or leasing a home. Furthermore, in the case of cohabitation, the lack of protection extends to insurance coverage cosigning and other protections. Like with employment, proof isn’t necessary, only the suspicion of being LGBTQ is necessary to be denied a place to live or evicted from the home already inhabited. Also, like with employment, the local and State level protections vary greatly. The following states including the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin. Everywhere else eviction is common enough that according to one study of self-identified LGBTQ 11% have been evicted because of their gender identity and 19% had become homeless due to eviction or inability to rent / purchase due to bias. Expanding the Fair Housing Act would go a long way to producing a more equal citizenship and normalize the legal landscape making it easier for all citizens to live in the community they chose.
Third is health care. Believe it or care is not guaranteed because sexual orientation and gender identity is not considered a protected class. It is entirely possible to be legally denied (although it completely goes against the Hipocratic Oath and moral code of any physician) health care services in States such as Indiana because you are, or are believed to be, LGBTQ.
The lack of protections are especially difficult for younger LGBTQ citizens. This is highlighted in the culmination of several trends. First coming out is occurring at an increasingly younger age which provides for earlier exposure to discrimination. Second unemployment in the 18-30 age group is higher than that of the general populous putting LGBTQ youth at an even greater disadvantage. Third, although age is a protected class there are still landlords and lenders that are skeptical of younger renters or buyers in real estate which LGBTQ then creates an additional hurdle for them to overcome, assuming they can afford reasonable housing depending on their employment situation. And so on…
It is important to note at this point what the phrase protected class means in these examples too. Every single person belongs to essentially every protected class. Thus, when we refer to Gender as a protected class we are referencing it as a whole, meaning Men are protected, not just Women and bi-Gendered individuals. When we refer to Race as a protected class we mean White Caucasian, not just Black or Asian. When we refer to Religion as a protected class we mean Catholic and Protestant Christians, not just Jews, Atheists or Muslims and so on. Therefore when we refer to Sexual Orientation as a protected class we mean heterosexual, not just homosexual, bisexual or asexual. And when we refer to Gender Identity we mean Cisgender, not just transgendered.
The conversation can continue on a number of other matters within family law including adoption
Allowing equality doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights. This is in spite of what some within the Religious community and those with a moral Creed against homosexuality and transgenderism would like to have everyone believe. Religious institutions will still be able to freely discriminate within the confines of the practice of their religion. No religion was forced to accept women for employment of leadership positions (like a priest) when Gender was recognized in U.S. Civil Law as a protected class. No religion was forced to perform interfaith marriages when Religion was recognized in U.S. Civil Law as a protected class or inter-racial/ethnic marriages with Race and Ethnicity were recognized in U.S. Civil Law as protected classes. No religion was forced to include anyone in any aspect of their religious services whom they deemed unworthy of inclusion based on the tenants of religion. Religion, in and of itself, is protected in several ways within the context of U.S. Civil Law. It is only when a religious tenant is taken outside of its spiritual home, where ministry intersects with secular life, that problems come. Thus, if a religion is serving the secular populous and not solely it’s own believers then it cannot discriminate. Religious that seek to convert the populous through their services by exploiting Civil Law to their advantage must also to be held to the same standard of law even when it is to their potential disadvantage. If they don’t agree then they should not be providing the services secularly in the first place. Forcing non-worship religious institutions to be held to the same standard as the rest of the non-religous institution providing the same secular services isn’t discrimination against the religion its equality under Civil Law. Again, nothing at all changes for what happens within the context of worship, within their holy place, only when it comes to public dealings with a secular society in which case no single religion is being held to a different standard than any other religion (or non-religious entity for that matter).
We’ve come a long way in a short time. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed allowing LGBTQ to serve openly next to their already openly serving heterosexual counterparts in defending this great nation. Several more states including Minnesota, Rhode Island and Delaware joined Maryland, Maine, Washington, New York, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, California (now for the second time) and Massachusetts in full equality and now one of DOMA’s more offensive passages has been stripped away that equality extends Federally to them. For these, I really am glad, but much like the battles every other oppressed group had to fight to earn the equality that should be inherent to their Citizenship.
And, as an aside, it’s fine for you to believe what you want about homosexuality, transgenderism just as it is “ok” for you to be xenophobic, racist, antisemitic, Antireligion, gerontophobic, misogynistic and so on too. It is not ok for that to affect the well being of your fellow citizens in their treatment under U.S. Law that promises “…liberty and justice for all.”