Gays finally have something to celebrate: as of this article (yes, it is changing that quickly), 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia now grant same-sex marriage licenses. Just one year ago, that number was less than half of what it is today. Images of gay and lesbian couples exchanging vows are a frequent sight in the media. We have become a much more progressive nation over the past decade.
We can finally declare ourselves a society of equality, right?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While we have made tremendous progress towards marriage-equality in the United States, 26 of the 37 states that have legalized same-sex marriage have done so through federal and state court decisions, and in most cases, it was the result of a homosexual couple suing the state for recognition of their union. Nine of the remaining states legalized same-sex marriage through state legislation, and only two states were granted marriage equality through referendums up for vote by the public. 71 percent of the population now lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, but according to the latest Gallup poll performed in May 2014, only 55 percent of the U.S. population supports same-sex marriage.
Now picture this: we are rapidly approaching the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Gender equality and equal pay for women in the workplace is still a topic of conversation and debate today. Race relations, immigration reform and civil rights for minorities have become hot-button issues this year. If we are still discussing black and women’s rights in 2015, what will gay rights look like in 50 or 100 years?
Progress, by its very nature, tends to march forwards, and for a country that only 12 years ago ruled sodomy laws (the de facto ban on homosexuality) unconstitutional in the 17 states that still enforced them, the future does look bright. But we as a society are not done yet.
30 states do not protect discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring practices. 39 do not protect against housing discrimination. Homosexual men are still banned by the FDA from blood and tissue donation. Replace the word “gay” with “black” or “Hispanic” in any of these scenarios and the United States would seem like the most backwards and discriminatory developed country in the world.
That is the current situation.
It is easy and willfully optimistic to assert that we are entering a chapter in society where discrimination based on sexuality is coming to a close. But we should not be blinded to the struggle that still remains. We should embrace the momentum of these great strides forward and pray that we continue towards the resolution of the good fight and hope that one day, we can truly say that within the United States, there exists equality for all.