Last month, history was made when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favour of same-sex marriage. While some states around the county have been steadily bringing same-sex marriage into law, in many others it remained illegal to marry a same-sex partner, meaning that same-sex couples may have to travel across the other side of the country just to get married.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling, same-sex marriage is now legal in all of the United States, and same-sex couples can get married wherever they would like.
This is a monumental achievement and it follows the growing acceptance of the LGBT community – something also signified by the fact that many straight allies and many companies have turned their social media icons ‘rainbow’ in support. However, it’s not the be all and end all of the LGBT rights movements and much needs to be done.
For example, in 27 states, employees can still be fired for being gay. While President Obama did recently sign an executive order that banned federal agencies and contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, that doesn’t include everyone.
Furthermore, some local governments have antidiscrimination laws (even if the state does not) but Ruth Colker, an expert on discrimination law at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, told The New York Times that
typically, the penalty for violating a city ordinance is more akin to a traffic violation” and that “state-level penalties can be much more significant.”
As a result, LGBT rights activists will be tackling job and housing related discrimination as their big, post-marriage equality fight. While there has been a lot of push back previously, specially from right-wing religious groups who feel that discrimination law will be used to persecute them for their religious beliefs, things do seem to be looking up.
Chai R. Feldblum, a commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, says that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, LGBT discrimination is illegal and that they have pursued over 200 cases based on this. Meanwhile, Shannon P. Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says that
I think there’s a very strong consensus now among advocacy groups that we need a broader bill that puts discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the same footing as race, religion and gender”
It is yet to be seen how activists’ efforts will pay off, or the work of politicians such as Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon (who wants to specifically add LGBT protections to the Civil Rights Act), but hopefully the Supreme Court’s ruling will snowball into comprehensive equality.
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