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On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. As a member of the LGBTQIA community I was thrilled. When I found out they ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, I was bursting with excitement; so much so that I broke into a little happy dance and felt a twinge of American pride.
But I also know the reality of this landmark decision: the fight for actual factual equality ain’t over yet. Not by a long shot. The joy I initially felt over the ruling wilts a little when people act like the war is won. This is only the beginning.
First, we must acknowledge that opinions on same-sex marriage are far from uniform. After the decision was handed down, it seemed like EVERYONE was happy about the ruling because that’s all the media showed. However, realistically only 60% of Americans are in support of marriage equality, which is a vast improvement from the paltry 27% two decades ago, but that still leaves 40% of the citizenry with dissenting views. Can we honestly be content with only 60% support? If civil rights was a class, then the U.S. would be failing! If we can’t even get a solid B in support for marriage, then how are we ever going to get support for anti-discrimination protection?
Secondly, we have to recognize the true underlying cultural agitations that have caused our current societal cleavages. Plainly said: let’s talk about homophobia.
Are you someone that still believes that being gay is unnatural, gross, or wrong? Yes? Then a) get your head out of your ass and b) you’re probably a tad homophobic. And I know that just because the Supreme Court says gay marriage is it does not change how you might feel on the matter. Plus, their decision does nothing to alleviate or mend any of the everyday struggles of many within the LGBTQIA community. Homophobia perpetuates the cycle of terror and shame that still tinges parts of the LGBTQIA identity.
So not to be all “womp womp” in the face of so many beautiful rainbow Facebook profile pics, but instead of just luxuriating in the success of marriage equality, let’s talk about the incredibly high homelessness and suicide rates of LGBTQIA youth. Or the ludicrous amount of trans bashing and assaults suffered by the community. Let’s talk about housing, adoption, medical care, and other services that are denied to LGBTQIA people around the world. And let’s talk about why these services are denied.
Then, thirdly, we would actually have to work on those rifts, bridging those gaps, and moving the country forward. Obergefell v. Hodges is a great platform in which to jumpstart difficult and healing conversations around sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression that the U.S. has been hesitant and uncomfortable dealing with before. Seizing this moment becomes of the utmost importance if the desire is to maintain momentum for the LGBTQIA Movement. If the opportunity isn’t taken now, then I fear that we will just become a nation with gay marriage but without true gay freedom.
And let’s be honest with ourselves: this wasn’t a win for trans or questioning individuals, this wasn’t a win for intersex or asexual people either. Obergefell v. Hodges is specifically a win for the gay and lesbian section of the LGBTQIA coalition. This case was carried on the backs of a coalition that put their own concerns on relative hold to push gay and lesbian marriage equality forward. The L and the G now must commit to the BTQIA portion of the cause, otherwise we are doing a disservice to the community that supported us. It’s time to step up.
As proud as I am in the Supreme Court laying the groundwork for progress through their landmark decision, I cannot help but be skeptical of the actual change being made in society. This ruling is one of the crown jewels of civil rights in America, and yet it lacks the necessary might to instill the social transformation that’s desperately desired. Without gritty, tough conversations about homophobia in our country, then what gains were truly made?
The Supreme Court is just nine people; they aren’t God. They can’t just “alakazam” and make real change happen. So let’s not just sit idle by and bask in a single triumph. Instead, we must continue on and breakdown all vestiges of the social demons that hold the U.S. back. We cannot let the moxie and gusto of the marriage equality fight slip away — because we have many more battles to go.