While Americans’ support for marriage equality is at a record high, many obstacles still remain for the LGBTQ community
By Denzel McCampbell
In a suspenseful and dramatic environment that only the United States Supreme Court can provide, many people around the country are awaiting the court’s ruling on marriage equality. For the third time in the last three years, the Supreme Court will weigh in on marriage equality. The first of those actions involved the court ruling a key component of the “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment. The section that was ruled unconstitutional prohibited same sex married couples from receiving any federal benefits that straight married couples would be entitled to.
That Supreme Court ruling has led to a flurry of lawsuits in states such as Michigan, which bans same-sex marriage. According to Freedom to Marry, those lawsuits have resulted in 65 pro-same-sex marriage rulings. However, while many judges have sided with the supporters of marriage equality, the good ole’ 6th Circuit Court (the circuit that contains Michigan) has gone against the recent pattern and ruled that same-sex marriage bans are constitutional; leading us to the case that we are waiting to hear a decision from the Supreme Court about any minute now.
The recent upswing in marriage equality rulings comes as Americans have become increasingly more positive towards same-sex marriage. Support has doubled from 27 percent of Americans supporting in 1996 to 60 percent as of last month. The LGBTQ community is winning the fight for marriage equality, but life as a whole is far from rosy for many.
From youth to adulthood, LGBTQ people are disproportionally faced with obstacles to overcome. LGBTQ youth make up 40% of homeless youth in America, with those who identify as transgender receiving further discrimination by being turned away from shelters. When it comes to violence, LGBTQ people of color experience more than twice the amount of physical violence, with transgender women of color making up 50 percent of LBGTQ homicides in 2014.
Violence is just one important piece of the denial of quality of life LGBTQ folks face, especially in Michigan. We live in a state where it was legal for a lesbian woman to be fired after her boss saw a social media picture of her with her partner. We live in the Mitten State, where a landlord is able to evict their tenant for being transgender. This is a reality for LGBTQ people in Michigan and across the nation.
Now, with the shift in public attitudes towards issues such as marriage equality and the notion that the discrimination the LGBTQ community encounters is wrong, one would think that elected officials are working hard to rid the state of these wrongs, right?
Nope. Those who we have elected to help protect us must have missed the memo that discrimination is wrong.
There have been successful attempts to attack the LGBTQ community time and time again. Last year, the legislature failed to expand the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which would have protected LGBTQ people from being fired, denied housing, or refused public accommodations just because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Another bill to expand the act was introduced this year, but has not seen any action.
There you have it, our elected leaders tried to provide basic civil rights to the LGBTQ community, but it didn’t work this time. They wouldn’t do anything to hurt the community even more, right? Wrong again. With the new legislature in Lansing, we’ve seen dangerous bills not only introduced, but also signed into law.
The so-called ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’, which many said would be a license for discrimination against LGBTQ people, was introduced even after lawmakers in Indiana received national backlash for passing a similar bill. Just this month, Governor Snyder signed legislation into law that allows faith-based adoption agencies that receive public funding to deny services based on their religious beliefs. A clear attack against same-sex couples.
These are just a couple examples of the numerous attempts by elected officials to attack a group of Michiganders. We have tasked our leaders in Lansing to make Michigan a better place for all and they have done just the opposite. Their policies and laws do nothing but send a clear message to everyone inside and outside of Michigan that everyone is NOT welcome.
Michiganders are increasingly getting on the right side of history and want to move forward when it comes to LGBTQ rights and issues. It’s time for our elected officials to get with the program.