September 22, 2010
A Bittersweet New Year
It seems like the Jewish New Year has brought with it lots of LGBT-related news. And while I’m generally quite the pessimist and despite a few recent challenges, I am still feeling pretty good about things.
So, let’s start with the bad news. Yesterday, in some complicated legislative maneuvering and pitting groups against one another, the US Senate voted against repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which forces LGBT military members into the closet and mandates that if service members are “outed” in any way, they are susceptible to discharge. The House had already voted to repeal the law, President Obama has come out against the law, and the US military has stated the law should go. So, for the estimated 66,000 LGB people currently serving in the military, this vote means they have to continue hiding in the closet. I’m here in DC this week, and I have to say, it is hard to walk around this town and not feel totally demoralized.
But, there are reasons to feel better about the state of LGBT America. While our elected officials in Washington, DC may not be getting it done, several recent studies find that Americans in general are warming to the idea of equality for LGBT people. The evidence:
1) A recent survey of 2,300 people across the US over seven years found that the number of people who consider LGBT couples with children to be “families” has risen from 54% to 68%. That’s right – more than two out of three people in the US think of LGBT people raising kids to be a family.
2) A study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that only 35% of Americans indicate that religion is the most important influence on how they feel about marriage equality for LGBT people. It is much higher for folks who identify as “conservative” –60%.
Judges around the country are also using the Constitution to conclude that discrimination against LGBT must go.
2) A judge in California declared earlier this month that the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional because it doesn’t actually make the military stronger, which has been the justification used for more than a decade.
3) In California, Proposition 8, which amended the state’s constitution to define marriage between a man and a woman, was found to violate the US Constitution.
4) In Massachusetts, a judge found that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognized same-sex couples who are legally married in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Washington, DC is also unconstitutional.
There are certainly many fights ahead – ensuring the LGBT aren’t fired from their jobs just for being LGBT, securing economic justice for low income LGBT people, putting an end to discrimination in health services, and the list continues – but these are important victories and signs that 5771 may be a good year for fulfilling the dream of equality under the law for all Americans.