In a long-sought victory for gay and lesbian rights, June 26th, 2015 marked a crucial step forward in the LGBTQ+ community, legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, coming full circle from 1970 when the Baker v. Nelson decision denied a marriage license to a gay couple. The Supreme Court ruled a 5-4 decision arguing the Constitution never forbade the practice, thus, gay and lesbian individuals could not be denied the right to marry freely.
As of April 2015 support for gay marriage was roughly 60% (1), an all-time high increasing from 37% in 2015 (2). The increase primarily due to the predominant support among the younger generation, ultimately influenced the older population in the US. But the problem now isn’t limited to gaining support from a larger amount of individuals, but rather continuing discussion on measures needed to spark further positive change in the LGBTQ+ community – something the government has been lacking since June of last year.
Although legalizing gay marriage was a tremendous achievement in the ongoing battle, state and federal governments are becoming complacent and believe the fight for equality is over. They fail to recognize discrimination is, unfortunately, still embedded in the US.
North Carolina laid out the plan to prevent discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people from businesses, set to go into effect on April 1st. However, before the law could be passed an abrupt meeting was scheduled and the law was signed into effect to protect race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex – but the state removed sexual orientation from the list (3). They argue that by doing so, they protect the gay community from harassment and backlash coming from those who don’t support such laws. But why strip LGBTQ+ individuals the simple right to use a public bathroom when they should be tackling how to stop the issue of harassment altogether? The US is perpetuating violent acts of discrimination by restricting the victim rather than taking a step further to change the attacker.
These entities did a great job in promoting “Love Wins” for the L and the G and the B but continue to neglect the T. Specifically, in the political and economic atmosphere of Texas alone the transgender population lacks basic opportunities including employment and voting. Out of all Texas occupational laws, only 14% of the workforce is protected from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. This leaves a majority of transgender individuals vulnerable to prejudice in the workplace, denying them the right to do something as simple as gaining an income. Texas also has a strict voter photo ID law that often holds transgender people back from voting or being turned away at the voting site potentially affecting approximately 25,000 transgender voters (4). In the constant effort to keep someone away from the body they feel comfortable in, these laws strip them from the rights a typical American has.
But such inequality can significantly decline if particular entities and organizations take proper measures to ensure equal treatment for LGBTQ+ people. By promoting positive discourse within the government and the public, companies are more likely to establish regulations preventing workplace discrimination. This not only benefits individuals who are hired but provides economic efficiency to the company because high turnover rates decrease its economic stability by increasing the demand for recruiting and training new employees (5). Small incentives sparked through discussion ultimately promote institutional and systemic equality, spreading the idea of inclusivity among future generations.