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Job Security or Recognizing Relationships? June 11, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in lgbt Issues, marriage equality.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement has spent the last half of a decade focusing on same-sex marriage. In the national movement, resources designated to non-discrimination laws, hate crimes protection and civil unions have been transferred over to legislative and legal fights for marriage equality. But is this a good strategy?

Marriage is considered by many to be the ultimate battle facing the movement. Once loving same-sex couples are granted access to the government-sanctioned institution, many believe tolerance and acceptance will come with it. But is this reality, or is it a goal discussed among progressive leaders living in progressive parts of the country?

In most parts of America, LGBT people can be fired from their jobs if their employers discover their sexual orientation or gender identity. Job security is a relative term for these people. Can LGBT people in less progressive areas focus on marriage when an employer is able to legally fire them for being married to someone of the same-sex?

Although I don’t believe a movement for equal rights must be linear, I can’t help but wonder whether we are skipping a step in the process by throwing most of our attention towards marriage. The vast majority of Americans say people should not be fired from their jobs for being gay, yet the vast majority of the country does not have employment non-discrimination protections. Have laws not caught up with public opinion because of politics or because many LGBT organizations have moved on to marriage? If national organizations put half of their marriage resources towards a federal non-discrimination law, would we make progress?

Poll numbers for marriage are not nearly as positive as those for non-discrimination laws. Marriage equality has never been supported by over 50 percent of Americans, and when same-sex marriage is dominating the political scene in Washington, support numbers drop to around 38 percent. Although in fairness we should be able to fight for marriage equality and deserve it now, is it the smartest strategy?

This questioning of priorities is not meant to criticize LGBT activists focusing on marriage. It is a noble and necessary goal. But protecting people with non-discrimination laws seems to be an important first step, and one that has yet to be achieved.

Living in New York City, I have been able to forget the difficulties LGBT people face in more conservative parts of the nation. Are most other LGBT activists the same way… have we taken on marriage equality too soon, while other Americans are still lacking non-discrimination protections?

It’s difficult, if not impossible, for national organizations to refocus themselves towards something “less” than marriage now. But many statewide and regional organizations have continually focused their efforts towards laws protecting LGBT people. Maybe having national focus on marriage while more statewides take on protections like non-discrimination is a good thing.

Just a few thoughts.



1. News Fit to Post - making social justice visible » Fighting for the Right to Discriminate… Literally. - July 11, 2006

[…] In past postings, I have questioned whether the LGBT movement is overly focused on obtaining equal marriage rights when our brothers and sisters in more moderate parts of the country can still be discriminated against in employment, public accommodations and housing. Recent events in Orange County, Florida and South Bend, Indiana may further the notion that although marriage equality is important and should be fought for, we cannot forget to continue to press for non-discrimination laws and other protections. […]

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