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LGBT Rights: The Bumpy Road Ahead

June 26th, 2015 was a big day for me, and not just because I found a prize in my Raisin Bran.

Although, now that I think about it, there wasn’t a label or a sticker or…oh, God, I hope that was supposed to be a prize.

But I digress. Marriage equality for LGBT Americans is now the law of the land, and a lot of us are giddily celebrating like the cat who got the constitutional personhood just five years after corporations did:

But flag-waving and courthouse-storming aside, my enthusiasm for what we’ve achieved in our fight for equality is tempered by the fact that marriage equality is just the first step on a long
Rainbow Road that is—if you’ll pardon my extension of a shaky metaphor—chockablock with blue shells for anyone outside the heteronormative paradigm.

Check it:

Sour Grapes are Holding Up Equality

Selective Enforcement: it’s not just the name of a COPS-themed room at the strip club anymore. The decision handed down my SCOTUS may have legalized marriage equality across the country, but the sour grapes are strong for some. At least five states are lollygagging on making marriage licenses available to LGBT couples, and presidential candidate Mike “Tone Deaf” Huckabee has called for “civil disobedience” in resisting the ruling. Because if there’s one thing Thoreau and King valued above all, it was keeping rights out of the hands of minorities.

LGBT Adoptions Remain a Struggle

It’s not just marriage equality that gets opponents of LGBT equality in an uproar. An estimated 402,000 kids are in the U.S. foster care system; around 102,000 of these children are eligible for adoption and in need of loving homes. Yet despite these alarming numbers, anyone who’s LGBT and wants to start a family via adoption can expect to face some sort of opposition (legal and otherwise) in the majority of the United States.

Couples can engage in all sorts of legal legerdemain (or jiggery-pokery, as some would have it) in order to give kids a home and provide at least some rights for both parents in the majority of U.S. states (barring Mississippi, Florida, and Utah, who apparently would rather see kids suffer than expose them to “the gay”). But with states like Michigan passing legislation specifically designed to make adoption harder for LGBT people, it’s clear that opponents are hellbent (to borrow a phrase) on burdening both the state and taxpayers with needless expense in the name of denying LGBT Americans equal access to adoption—and homes for kids in need.

LGBT Housing and Job Protections

Marriage is now on the table, but even connubial bliss can take a hit when we’re living under the stress of potential firings and evictions just for being who we are. At least 22 states offer some kind of protection for LGBT Americans with regard to employment and housing, but the rules are arbitrary, spottily enforced, and readily ignored at the local level. Now that marriage equality has been achieved, the next hurdle to be cleared is nationwide protections that will ensure gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Americans are as free to live as they are to love.

Trans Americans in Peril

Trans Americans are a fraction of an oppressed fraction, but we’re disproportionately likely to end up poor, underemployed, homeless, and dead. Especially trans women.

As of June, nine trans women have been murdered in 2015 alone. Add in the vastly underreported rates of sexual assault, suicide, and physical violence we endure worldwide, and it’s easy to see why simply being able to stay alive has become a dubious goal for our community. Gay America has set its sights on improved quality of life to accompany equality as it moves forward, but for the trans community, the goal remains securing the basic right to exist without fear of attack, marginalization, or death.

The arrival of marriage equality is something to celebrate. It absolutely is. It’s been an uphill climb, and we deserve a moment to pat ourselves on the back for overcoming fear, bigotry, and ignorance in order to secure and defend our rights and personhood. But as we stand here in the limelight, picking out the perfect little Hers ‘n’ Hers cake topper or choosing a venue, it’s so very important that we remember where we are. This isn’t the end of our climb. This is base camp. And while the sun feels good on our shoulders after such a long fight in the dark, there’s still a long climb ahead.

Image Credit: Kim Marius Flakstad (originally posted to Flickr as Rainbow-Road) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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