What a wonderful month it’s been for the LGBT+ community. The 22nd of May saw Ireland vote yes in the referendum that would decide whether same-sex couples should be able to marry. Just over a month later and the US Supreme Court ruled the same decision in the landmark Obergell v. Hodges case. Following this, pride celebrations have been getting under way all across the world in major cities from San Francisco to London to Manila. Seeing such amazing scenes of celebration may lead some to believe that the fight for equality is over, but dig a little deeper and it’s clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
LGBT rights have for so long been a topic of hot debate in the USA, and for years some traditionally conservative states such as Alabama and Mississippi have fought to ensure that Friday’s 5-4 decision would never become a reality. The ruling rightly caused a storm on social media, with almost 7 million tweets containing the hashtag #LoveWins alone. The reports of couples rushing to wed after such a long fight for their right to do so is truly heart-warming, and it’s definitely not something that should be downplayed, but for many a marriage license doesn’t always act as a ticket to a land of freedom.
At present, only 21 of the 50 states have legislation in place to ban discrimination against LGB people in employment and housing, and only 18 of these have laws that ban discrimination against those who identify as transgender. Everywhere else, there are no laws that stop an employer from firing an employee, or a landlord from evicting their tenants on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender. Additionally, even though same-sex couples can now get married, there are certain laws that prohibit them from starting a family. Alabama is the perfect example of this. As a state that currently has no laws against LGBT+ discrimination, same-sex couples are forbidden to adopt a child. Just three years ago, a woman was denied her request to adopt her spouses child, despite the fact that they had previously gotten married in California.
For some, discrimination might not come from the workplace, but rather from within their own family. Simply posting a picture of a pride celebration is too dangerous for many, let alone sharing a status or a photo about a relationship. In fact, Facebook itself has come under scrutiny in recent years for its blanket ban on adopted names, a policy that affects LGBT people who sometimes use such names to avoid homophobia and discrimination. Therefore for those who face extreme discrimination from those close to them, marriage is often all but an unattainable end goal.
Another problem faced by the LGBT community is the fact that the rights of those living in places other than the USA and Western Europe are often forgotten about, particularly by the media. At present, it is illegal to be gay in 79 countries worldwide; a statistic that is shocking yet underreported and rarely discussed. In 10 of these countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. Those who identify as LGBT in these countries often have no option but to hide their true identity, or else face extreme punishments.
Although LGBT is the acronym that is most often used by the media and activist groups, it fails to incorporate those who are queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA), indeed many believe that activism for LGBT rights often focuses solely on the advancement of those who identify as either gay or lesbian. Now that same-sex marriage is a reality, activism needs to take a drastic turn to help achieve equality for everyone. There’s still a lot to achieve; reports of mental health conditions are undoubtedly higher for LGBT people, and it’s a sad fact that those who are transgender are at a higher risk of being victims are violent crimes including murder. The road to true equality may prove to be a long one, but the end goal is in no way unachievable.
Of course, the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the USA is a wonderful step towards equality, but it is by no means the final one. The array of rainbow flags that now don the profile pictures of many on Facebook is perhaps the simplest form of support for the LGBT community, but it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t last for long. For some, showing support in this way is enough and many won’t pause to think of the discrimination that occurs outside of the USA, but for those who identify as LGBT+, the reality is that life doesn’t get easier after marriage, but rather it may prove to cause more discrimination than before.