Supreme Court Gay Marriage: Will It Change the Stigmas Surrounding Gay Rights in the U.S.?
This is the 21st century. Yet if I applied for work, and I happened to be gay or a cross dresser or transgender or whatever else along that incredibly diverse spectrum of sexuality that is the human condition, I could be fired. Fired without the right to fight for my position and protection and without the support of my government, regardless of my merit and capabilities. In the 21st century, there is no reason why sexual orientation, a characteristic no different than race, gender, or religion, should shatter any person's opportunities to be successful.
This is the battle Danielle Powell faces today, just one of many discrimination cases littering the country. In the spring of 2011, Powell was expelled just before her graduation from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, because she was a lesbian and had fallen in love with her now-wife regardless of the fact that it was a strictly forbidden relationship at a school where even prolonged hugs were banned. Not only was she suspended and forced to take part in various Christian mentorship programs, spiritual training, and counseling, but she was eventually expelled and sent a bill for $6,000. Grace University stated that this was to reimburse the federal loans and grants that needed to be repaid because Danielle didn't finish the semester.
This isn't the first case of discrimination based on sexual orientation or even sexual activity at private Bible- and faith-based colleges. Grace and other private colleges that accept Title IV funding for student aide must comply with the Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, age, or physical handicap. Sexual orientation however, is not included in that list.
Powell's case though, is particularly unusual. Ken Upton, an attorney at Lambda Legal, the national civil rights organization stated that, "There’s this fear that they might not release her information and they are demanding payback … We don’t see that very often. Usually, the school's just glad to be rid of them." Today, Powell is still fighting with her ex-alma mater arguing that her tuition was already covered by scholarships. The Department of Education has also weighed in on the issue, noting that educational institutions controlled by religious organizations are exempt from some federal requirements that might conflict with the organizations' religious tenets.
Overall, the broader issue of "sexual orientation" as a protected class has recently faced some odd disputes. The North Carolina State Bar recently struck down changes that would have protected "sexual orientation." It was argued that to agree that "sexual orientation is a nondiscrimination class is to presuppose that the parties involved are aware, and therefore prejudiced against another's sexual orientation. It is also argued that sexual orientation is not an innate, indisputable characteristic, like race, nationality, or sex, and instead encapsulates a concept based on changing personas and personal sexual decisions. Therefore, to include sexual orientation as a protected class would mean that the North Carolina State Bar would have assumed that every person is born with an inherent sexual orientation, a fact that is not yet widely accepted or scientifically proven."
Ultimately, people like Powell may have to recognize that their issue of sexual discrimination will have to be placed on the backburner of social progress. After all, the Supreme Court is still stalling on the growing issue of same-sex marriage as federal law. Without the ability to even be legally married in all parts of the nation, how can anyone see that there will be an end to overall sexual discrimination?