After DOMA: The buck doesn't stop here
Considering the repeal of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented federal recognition of homosexual marriages, to be the crown achievement of the LGBT movement neglects the further challenges remaining to societal sexualilty standards. The structuring of marriage equality as the primary objective has made us play into conservative and upper class ideals of what the LGBT community should look like. By doing so, we have represented LGBT as a happy loving community-which it very well is and can be-and neglected the other side of the coin for LGBT rights: LGBT divorce, sexual experimentation, and sex positivity. We've presented the "Mitch and Cam" model of a white upper class couple who have the funds and means to marry and adopt while not addressing the concerning number of homeless LGBT youth in America today (between 320,000 and 400,000 according to the Center for American Progress). Isn't it wonderful and amazing that homosexual partners can now marry? Absolutely; but if we don't continue to push for equality in other arenas, we will be stunted.
Let's get real here: monogamous marriage is practically the ultimate goal of social conservative ideology. It means all your body parts are now reserved for one human being (which is cool and all), and you'll now file all your taxes together. Huzzah! Does marriage have a lot of emotional importance? Sure, but only because we as a society decided that marriage means something more than a party and a signed paper. Like "Voldemort," words and names only have the power we afford to it. Truly, how liberal is it to demand rights to one of the oldest traditions and institutions out there?
Marriage has also been linked to further the economic and social divides in this country. As Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University said to the New York Times, "It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged." The same article also reports that "scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns - as opposed to changes in individual earnings - may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality." The frightening correlations between marriage and economic divides can only mean one thing: that marriage equality may not stipulate economic equality.
With the spotlight elsewhere, it's easy to forget about other important LGBT issues. For the sake of brevity, we'll only cover unemployment and homeless youth with a statistic dump. From the Williams Institute, of all LGBT employees, 27.1 percent were subject to any form of discrimination including harassment or job loss; 37.7 percent of "out" employees faced similar acts. For transgender employees, 78 percent had encountered it. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, homosexual individuals make up 20 percent of the homeless population, even though they only comprise 10 percent of the youth population. Once they are homeless, they are 7.4 times more likely to be the victims of sexual violence than their heterosexual counterparts. They are also twice as likely to commit suicide. With this in mind, can we continue to ignore these important challenges? Shouldn't support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) be just as boisterous as the rejection of DOMA? Shouldn't you change your profile picture in recognition of the hundred thousands of LGBT youth without home or hearth?
By demanding marriage equality, we've been liberals on conservative terms. We've tried to strip away the "sexual deviant" label when we should be saying "it sure ain't immoral to enjoy sexual activity," especially to those who use the Bible as their chastity belt. Homosexuality can and is often about the love between two people, but it can also be about the lust between two people. Are we really going to neuter ourselves and continue to stigmatize against any sort of sex positivity? Should we really apologize for enjoying an orgasm?
Marriage equality is great. It will forever mark an important step in the crusade for LGBT rights. Yet, understanding how it plays into class divides and conservative ideals of marriage is vital to realizing we can do so much more. Much like the decision of Roe vs. Wade, we have years and years ahead of us defending this decision, much less trying to gain more ground. Let's not forget about the further struggles ahead of us such as LGBT homelessness and workplace discrimination. Reflect on combating further homophobia and transphobia. Don't make marriage equality the greatest achievement of the movement; make it merely the first step on the road to challenging economic inequality and sex-negativity.
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