Both internationally and on the home front, LGBT rights issues have recently been making it into headlines—at least when there is time between a tragic shooting and 2016 election speculation. But amidst progress in many nations, there is some surprising regression occurring around the world.
Let’s start off with the good news from last year. In May, President Obama announced his support for marriage equality and was followed by a cohort of celebrities, from Jay-Z to Ryan Seacrest.
The most recent election featured plenty of milestones. Four more states passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, bringing the total to nine. The first openly bisexual U.S. Representative was voted in, along with three other gay Reps, giving us a record six LGBT members of the House.
Additionally, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin won a U.S. Senate seat, becoming the first openly gay Senator. Later in November of last year, the American Psychiatric Association updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to remove gender identity disorder from the list of mental illnesses.
And to cap off a year of civil rights progress, the Supreme Court will hear cases on not just one LGBT rights case, but two. In December, they announced that they would rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents same-sex couples from being recognized at a federal level, as well as California’s Proposition 8, which famously amended the state constitution to only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. Despite a few hiccups, such as North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions, 2012 was a banner year for the LGBT cause, domestically.
2013 looks to follow in its footsteps as the President boldly called for equality in his inaugural address. Later that month, the Boy Scouts of America revealed that they would reconsider their ban on gay scouts, an announcement that was followed by an outpouring of support.
Most recently, on February 6, the Pentagon announced that it would begin to extend benefits to same-sex partners of members of the armed forces. With the Supreme Court set to hear the aforementioned cases in late March, it appears that marriage equality may not be too far away.
However, despite the tide of positive change happening in the United States, the struggle for international LGBT rights has taken some blows recently. Late last year, Nigeria went ahead with an anti-gay bill that puts in place a 14-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality as well as a ten year sentence for anyone that aids a same-sex union.
Despite British threats to deny aid to countries that persecuted LGBT persons, the bill enjoyed popular support and passed without much opposition. In Russia, more and more regions of the country are enacting bans on “propaganda of homosexualism,” including Moscow’s ban of gay pride parades for the next century.
France has also experienced several large anti-gay marriage protests while their contentious gay marriage bill slowly moves through parliament. The state Oaxaca in southern Mexico passed a law that banned gay marriage on the grounds that marriage was meant to perpetuate the species, but fortunately the Mexican Supreme Court struck down the law in December, which gay rights activists hope will pave the way for nationwide recognition.
Following the good news from Mexico, Britain has announced recently that their gay marriage bill passed through the House of Commons with overwhelming support and should be signed into law hopefully sometime during the summer, according the Prime Minister David Cameron.
In case it hasn’t been overwhelmingly obvious, I am staunchly in support for LGBT equality. It has nothing to do with the fact that I have plenty of LGBT friends or that I think that gay and lesbian couples have earned the right to marry. My beliefs come from the fact that I believe in equal rights.
I don’t understand how purported libertarians in the GOP, such as father-son duo Ron and Rand Paul, can object to gay marriage without immediately being crushed under the weight of their hypocrisy. By now, I thought we had established that you couldn’t deny rights to certain citizens that you extend to others based on arbitrary criteria.
LGBT couples are American citizens and their sexual orientation should have nothing to do with the rights and privileges they have. I don’t care if you object to the idea of gay people on moral or religious grounds. I don’t care if you don’t like LGBT people just because you think it’s icky. You have a freedom of speech and the freedom of religion to hold those views, but you cannot infringe upon the rights of another citizen based purely on personal opinion. So here’s to progress and the hope that some day soon, the pursuit of happiness will be accessible to every single American.