The current debate about LGBTQIA (just to clarify, that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual) rights is a heated one which has stirred up a lot of controversy in the United States. While the country has been generally moving forward in our consciousness of these issues, there is still a formidable amount of people who either do not understand LGBTQIA-related problems, or oppose their rights. Although the mainstream discourse has been predominantly about same-sex marriage, there is a lot more to the LGBTQIA movement, including adoption, housing, hate crimes, and employment. A recent piece in the Guardianabout LGBTQIA rights shows us can see which states are leading the way, and which ones are falling behind.
Potentially the most visible issue within the LGBTQIA community is the battle over same-sex marriage. Currently, 10 states permit same-sex couples to marry, with five granting them civil unions. 8 out of the 10 states with same-sex marriage are in the Northeast. But why is this important?
As CNN reports, a General Accounting Office found in 1997 that there are 1,049 laws in which federal rights, benefits or privilege, such as Social Security, tax breaks, and pensions, were contingent on marital status. There also exists a 1978 Supreme Court ruling marriage as “one of the civil rights of man.” Same-sex marriage isn’t about simply having the luxury of getting married: it is about the civil rights granted to people.
States that grant their citizens same-sex marriage rights tend to do well in other areas of LGBTQIA rights. There are four states (VT, CT, WA, MA) and Washington, D.C. that have laws granting same-sex marriage, employment and housing laws protecting from discrimination, hospital visitation, adoption, protection against hate crimes, and anti-discrimination in public schools.
While same-sex marriage is an important battle for the LGBTQIA community, it is also crucial to look at what other issues prevalent to the community and how the United States scores in those areas. Anti-discrimination employment laws are necessary to ensure that LGBTQIA people are not harassed at their work or denied jobs because of their identity. Federal housing laws are in place to ensure that housing programs that receive federal funding do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crime laws serve to protect LGBTQIA people from being victims of crimes simply for having a different gender expression or sexual orientation. Addressing anti-LGBTQIA bullying in public schools is necessary to promote acceptance in our country.
It is vital to keep in mind that while same-sex marriage has become a hot topic in the media, there are a lot more rights to be won for the LGBTQIA community, as well as a need for a culture shift in our attitudes about LGBTQIA people, particularly for transgender people, who are often left out of the dialogue. Ending hatred comes not just from changing legislation, but from changing minds.