Euphoria Over Marriage Equality Glosses Over a Sad Truth About LGBT Rights in America
The news: The Supreme Court delivered a blow earlier this week to five states looking to block same-sex marriages by rejecting their appeals. That decision made same-sex marriage legal in the majority of U.S. states for the first time in history.
That's great, but the euphoria over marriage equality glosses over a sad truth about LGBT rights in America: As the Washington Post reports, gay people "can now get legally married in more states than where they are legally protected from job discrimination."
The alarming map below shows five states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Utah, Indiana and Oklahoma — where gay people can get married but also be fired the next day, since it's legal for employers to fire them for their sexual orientation. Despite overwhelming support from a public that wants employment rights for the LGBT population, our laws aren't catching up to the will of the people.
With Americans' support for same-sex marriage rising — a Gallup poll from September shows it reaching a new high at 55% — employment discrimination laws still trail behind.
No law currently prohibits job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and laws following it, banned discrimination on race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability. The last time a sweeping federal law could have changed that, LGBT activists didn't support it because it didn't include "protections on the basis of gender identity," writes the Washington Post. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act eventually imploded.
Since Republicans are reluctant to support anything pro-gay, regulations outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation will have to happen on a state-by-state basis.
Why it matters: As we celebrate gay marriage victories across the country, it's important to remember that they are not "equal" under the eye of the law. There are still a lot of legal disparities, including being fired just because they are who they are.
An untold number of gay people are steeped in financial distress because they lack the same legal protections as their heterosexual friends. Even Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, is only now getting around to passing a law that bans crimes targeting sexual orientation after a brutal assault on a gay couple last month.
We won't truly live in the land of equality until our laws measure up to it.