Recently, the state of Rhode Island became the 10th state to support same-sex marriage which has been seen as a huge win for the gay-rights movement. Now we must ask how many people will see the greater fight after marriage equality?
By the “greater fight”, I don’t mean the fight for marriage equality in the next 40 states (although those fights are important), I mean the fight against the other issues facing the queer community.
There has been an idea planted the heads of so many people that marriage equality is the “be-all and end-all” which has caused so many to not have any significant knowledge of the discriminations that the queer community face beyond the right to marriage.
Sadly, the media is not the only one to blame for the apathy for the fight beyond marriage equality, but many gay-rights organizations as well. While marriage-equality is a great uniting issue among both the queer and straight communities, it shouldn’t be the entire platform.
Another fault of many gay-rights organizations is that they have built their marriage-equality campaigns on the social-justice factor of the fight and not the economic factors. What I mean is this: many organizations have campaigned on the ideology that same-sex marriage is just “right thing to do”, and haven’t really pushed the other arguments which involve the legal and economic benefits of why same-sex marriage should be legal.
When it comes to marriage-equality, where are the arguments about the social-security benefits, or the legal rights of a spouse that are especially critical when the other spouse is in the hospital and important decisions need to be made? Being in a civil union does not permit the spouse to make decisions, and leaves the decisions making up to their spouse’s relatives.
When it comes to taxes, there is another unifying concept that anyone whether straight or queer can share; everyone hates paying them! So why are many gay-rights groups not shining light on the discrimination in not being able to file joint tax-returns that cost queer people in civil-unions or domestic-partnership hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax-refunds or pensions during their lifetime.
However like I stated above, there are more issues beyond marriage-equality worth fighting against.
Most of us would hate to hear the words “you’re fired!” especially if there wasn’t any justifiable cause for it. Thankfully there are federal employment laws that protect people from being fired due to a disability, their sex, or their race, but there aren’t any federal protections that protect people from being fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. In 29 states, over half of the United States, you can legally be fired for being gay. If you are transgendered that number is even worse; in 34 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgendered. 43 percent of gay people have reported harassment at work while a staggering 90 percent of transgender people have reported harassment at work. But like any workplace discrimination such as by gender or race, this kind of discrimination can be minimized not only by employment-protection laws, but by unions as well. Unions have played an important role for the employment protections that many of us have now. On average, a woman only makes 77% of what a man makes for the same job, but with unions all workers are guaranteed the same amount of pay for the same amount of work. Many gay-rights organizations haven’t launched campaigns against anti-union legislation and politicians such as Scott Walker and Michigan’s “right to work” bill. Until the gay-rights organizations join in with the fight for labor, they will not see any gratifying change in the hostile-workplace environment that queer people face.
If many gay-rights organizations and pro-LGBT politicians cared about the queer the community, they would focus more attention on passing laws and creating an environment that is going to stop the violence towards queer people. By “violence”, I mean more than physical violence, but the economic and mental violence towards queer people as well.
Queer youth face higher homelessness rates. There is an estimated 1.6 million homeless youth in which 40 percent identify as LGBT. Many lawmakers haven’t offered any legislation that solves homelessness, not only for the queer community, but for all people.
One of the first steps to solving homelessness is to criminalize the parents who kick their children out of their home for simply being gay; it is estimate that 26 percent of children who have come out to their parents were kicked out of their home. Homelessness is an issue that gay-rights groups should be fighting against, not only for LGBT people, but for all people; it’s part of their duty as an organization
When it comes to mental violence, gay rights organizations do a better job than they do with other issues, but still lack to build the momentum to prevent it. Gay-rights organizations should not only tell kids not to bully other students, but need to organize around and support laws making it illegal. Many administrators simply ignore a student who is being bullied for being queer. Making school administrators and teachers legally responsible for the bullying against queer students is imperative for creating safe-learning environments for queer students. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender are five times more likely to be absent due to their fear of being bullied or harassed which causes 28 percent of LGBT youth to drop out of school altogether. The mental attacks on queer people contribute to 30 percent of all suicides. There is are no laws that criminalize those who bully queer people or make those who bully responsible for suicides responsible for the victim’s death.
Economic violence towards queer people is just as bad. The amount of queer people who live in poverty is twice the nation’s poverty level. As congress and many local governments continue to push austerity measures , the amount of funding for services like, healthcare, housing, and AIDS research that not only many queer people rely on, but many working-class people as well, see drastic cuts. The fight against austerity measures is just as important to the gay-rights movement as any other fight.
Another current issue that many gay-rights organizations continue to ignore is immigration reform. Just queer people, immigrations continue to be targets of senseless bigotry. Queer people have high stakes in immigration reform; even with the right to marriage, marriage doesn’t guaranteed undocumented-queer people the right to become citizens. The queer community should be wary of any immigration reform regardless if they have the right to marriage because not all proposed immigration reform will extend to same-sex couples, and the queer community needs to let our politicians know that same-sex couples and queer people will not be unrepresented. Currently, more than 80 countries outlaw homosexuality, and some of those sentence gay people to death. Without immigration reform, undocumented-queer people are deported back to the hostile country that they fled from in order to be safe from persecution. (Doesn’t that sound similar to an event that involves the founding of America?)
Focusing on other issues will not only help the queer community, but help ensures gay-rights organizations that they will not have a decrease in members after achieving marriage equality. After same-sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2004, Canada’s national LGBT organization, Egale, saw a 30-40% drop in monthly donations.
In an article written by J. Lester Feder explaining the effects that marriage equality has had on the gay-rights movement in other countries, Boris Dittrich, a former member of the Dutch parliament who successfully passed the world’s-first marriage-equality legislation in the year 2000, explained to Feder that "After marriage passed in the Netherlands, the movement more or less collapsed.” It became harder to engage people in the fight against the other discriminations that queer people face
The gay-rights movement extends beyond each organization’s individual country, and connects to issues on a global level. Organizations in the United States should be just as invested in the fight against discrimination in places like east-Africa or the middle-east.
Unless gay-rights groups in the United States move their platform to other issues besides gay-marriage, they are doomed to experience the same fate as those in Canada or the Netherlands which will ultimately kill or at least hinder the gay-rights movement that has taken so many years to build.