2.1. Benefits of Marriage
Kennedy’s decision touched on the importance of recognizing stigma, discrimination and violence LGBTQ people endure in U.S. society and how marriage can help mediate these things. In his decision, he quoted a passage from the Massachusetts case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state (Goodridge v Dept of Public Health 2003). Marriage holds an essential role in this nation as “it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity; civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and who to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition” (, p. 13; [9,12,13,14]). Dean Spade notes that when same-sex couples live together in monogamous relationships or get married, they can “move from being highly stigmatized to being considered acceptable” (, p. 29).“My husband’s parents were a bit hesitant and frightened by the idea of a big public wedding. They wanted us to keep the whole thing more private, discreet. It was very helpful to have the actual president of the United States on television saying this was a good thing. The tidal wave of news and social media posts about gay marriage gave us some legitimacy at the exact right moment.”(, p. 1)
2.2. Perils of Legalizing Marriage
In places where non-discrimination policies for LGBT do not exist, married same-sex couples are at risk of being fired, denied housing, and other public accommodations without recourse if they revealed their sexual orientation. For many white LGB people, particularly those who are well-educated and have resources, the “Freedom to Marry” campaign provided an opportunity to work for social change that they would directly benefit from as this was likely the only place where they faced discrimination [7,30,31,36,48,50,66]. Unfortunately for those struggling financially or working in a state without LGBTQ protection, marriage usually offers little increased benefit. Coincidentally, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was facing a crucial vote when the push for marriage intensified. All LGBT national organizations mobilized around marriage instead of ENDA. Therefore, when ENDA failed to pass a vote in the House, it was finished. This bill could have been of great benefit to the vast majority of LGBTQ individuals as well as heterosexual people.“the sting of social disapproval and the persistence of discrimination in nearly every facet of everyday existence.” For “most of the 20th century and continuing even today, many gay people have lived their lives ‘in the closet’ so as not to risk losing a job, a home, or the love and support of family and friends.”
Certainly, this “conditioning” or socialization that all people are subjected to in some way when living in the U.S., has an impact on decisions to marry.“It has not fully dawned on white gay men that racist conditioning has rendered many of them no different from their heterosexual brothers in the eyes of black gays and lesbians. Coming out of the closet to confront sexual oppression has not necessarily given white males the motivation or insight to transcend their racist conditioning.”(, p. 95)
Strategizing for Social Change: An Additional Approach
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- 2Protection for LGBTQ identity varies by state. Hate crime laws recognizing crime directed specifically at someone due to their perceived sexual orientation or identity as transgender were primarily established in the 1990s. Laws focusing on increasing access and eliminating discrimination for LGBTQ individuals became more widespread in the 2000s. Currently, four states have hate crime statutes for both sexual orientation and gender identity. An additional 14 states have hate crime laws for sexual orientation. Laws protecting individuals from discrimination also vary. Twelve states offer protection for gender identity and 22 recognize sexual orientation. Of these states, 18 states offer both and four recognize sexual orientation. Eighteen states also provide protection from discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing and employment. Seventeen of these states also offer protection for accessing public accommodations.
- 3The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. The law is immaterial as they already can refuse to conduct any marriage that they do not want to conduct.
- 4The states are Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia.
- 5The “Central Human Capabilities” are: 1. Life, 2. Bodily Health, 3. Bodily Integrity, 4. Senses, Imagination and Thought, 5. Emotions, 6. Practical Reason, 7. Affiliation, 8. Other Species, 9. Play, 10. Control over One’s Environment (, pp. 41–42).
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