Yesterday was a huge victory for justice in the United States as the Supreme Court announced that bans on same-sex marriage were illegal because they violated the Constitution (the supreme law of the United States of America) and therefore any laws that states had made regarding same-sex marriage that either banned them or made them unequal to different-sex marriage. This is so rad, because that means that couples who are of the same sex can finally have some of the rights and privileges afforded to married people in this country.
Some of the benefits as listed by PBS Newshour:
- They can sponsor and be sponsored for immigration benefits. That means they can get their immigration status changed through marriage just like straight couples!
- Next-of-kin status in emergency situations!
- Family visitation rights in settings where it's needed like hospitals and prisons.
- Custodial rights to shared property, child support, and alimony in the event of divorce.
- Joint parenting rights, like access to school and medical records (while the child is still a minor in most states).
- Right to spousal funeral and bereavement leave.
- Qualify for domestic violence intervention. This is huge because same-sex marriages are not immune to the problem that affect other marriages, and before, many people couldn't get the help they needed to escape violent situations because their marriage/partnership didn't legally qualify as one.
- Apply for low-income housing together if they are a low-income family.
- More at PBS Newshour
But that said, there are still a lot of things we have to keep working on. Marriage Equality has been a hot issue for a long time, and probably the most popular and visible one, but the less visible issues are certainly still relevant. We have to keep the momentum going and fight for the safety, dignity, and equality of LGBTQIA+ people.
Here are some more issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ Community that you should know about, talk about, and take action on.
- Transphobia. This topic is becoming more mainstream with celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner being vocal about their lives. But there is a ton of work to be done. By April of this year, we had a record-breaking 14 LGBTQ murders, and half were transwomen of color. Even so-called LGBTQ organizations are guilty, like the Human Rights Coalition, which is noticeably disinterested in helping transpeople. It should also be noted that a report came out in the past year that HRC is sexist, cissexist, and racist, where only cis, white, gay men could advance. (Can you tell I'm really not about the HRC?)
- Racism. Racism is a huge problem in America and it intersects with LGBTQIA issues. It affects the community internally (as evidenced by HRC above, as well as elsewhere) and externally. In 2011, 70% of anti-LGBTQ murder victims (murders!) were People of Color.
- Police hostility. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP)'s 2014 report on hate-violence on LGBTQH individuals reported among other horrifying stats, that fewer people were reporting hate-violence and those that did were met with "increased police hostility."
- Youth suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers. Almost half of all trans youth have seriously considered suicide, and a quarter of trans kids attempted it. These and more facts about LGBTQ suicide and ways to get involved at The Trevor Project. More info from the CDC.
- LGBT youth homelessness. No small number of LGBTQ youth face rejection from their families, and decide to leave home to escape abuse (physical, mental, etc.) and violence. Many of them end up on the street. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of the homeless youth served by their agencies are LGBTQ. Some homeless shelters refuse to help LGBTQ people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender presentation. LGBTQ homelessness is even more of a problem because unlike in the past, these kids aren't leaving home at 18-20-- they're running away at 12 or 13. Imagine being 12 and homeless, and facing serious threat of hate-violence on top of all that.
- Lack of education. Whether you are or aren't LGBTQ+, there is a good chance that growing up you didn't have a good understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, or identities. This makes it hard for those who aren't straight or cisgender to understand themselves, find resources, and get medical care. It means that many people at school, work, wherever don't always understand how to deal with LGBTQ+ people, which can result in anything from hurt feelings and disrespectful comments to full on bullying and abuse. Imagine your doctor not understanding how to be respectful of you and your body. We need to push for better education earlier on and better education for those who didn't get it until now. That means teaching teachers how to teach kids and handle conflicts based on anti-LGBTQ bullying, as well as having sensitivity training and education for adults who were raised in a transphobic, homophobic, biphobic society, and haven't learned how to interact with LGBTQ individuals.
- Biphobia and bi-erasure. This comes on both sides from heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. "Bi people are just slutty." "Bi people just want attention." "Bisexuality isn't a thing." "Pride isn't for you." "You're not bi if you married someone." There's a lot of this ignorance going on. I've even seen gay people outright tell bi people with different sex partners that "Pride isn't for them" and to "stay the hell away."
- Representation in politics, media, etc. Let's make our political system and our media more representative of the world. Let's push for diversity in books, movies, toys, and TV! People of color, LGBTQ people, people from other countries, socioeconomic backgrounds, and with disabilities all deserve to have representation in the media they consume. Vote and support candidates who can bring different (but still aligned with your values) viewpoints to the table. Push for better written characters that don't fall into cheesy one-dimensional tropes, or have to take the backseat to a straight, white, cis guy.
- Employment and Housing Discrimination. A 2013 study found that housing applicants listed as same-sex couples were far more likely to be rejected. There are 30 states that do not have any anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, and another three that have protections based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. This means that LGBT people are more likely to be poor (and that American businesses are missing out on amazing LGBT employees because of bigotry).
Let's keep moving forward, America. What issues are you working to further conversation and action on?