As a lesbian whose been out for more than 30 years, and in a long-term relationship, I feel like I live a relatively normal life: partner, three dogs, and three cats. Oh, and I keep forgetting, we’re married now. Something I never thought would happen is suddenly a reality.
That means I am eligible for spousal social security benefits, tax filing, and other federal benefits. And I can now take advantage of my partner’s health insurance policy. This makes it seem like everything is great in L.G.B.T.Q.-land, and for sure, we’ve come a long way. But there are still many struggles we face.
Some States Still Ban Same-Sex Marriage
Although same-sex marriage is legal at the Federal level, some states still have bans on their books. What does this mean? In these states, it puts roadblocks in front of those seeking to get married and affects adoption and child custody cases.
After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that made same-sex marriage legal, we saw a discrimination backlash, mainly at the state level. More than 22 anti-L.G.B.T.Q. Bills were introduced in 2016, the year after same-sex marriage became legal. Many state officials have argued religious freedom to justify denying services. I mean, never did I ever think the gay rights movement would be in a fight over baked goods, but here we are.
In many places, you can go to your county clerk, get a marriage license, and get married, and then get fired from your job because you are openly gay. Twenty-eight states do not have laws that protect sexual orientation from discrimination. And there is no federal law that protects access to housing, employment, and public accommodation in restaurants and hotels.
In fact, some bills restrict public accommodation from those who are transgender.
Violence is a huge problem for same-sex couples, as hate crimes against L.G.B.T.Q. people have risen steadily over the past three years. I’m not saying that I go around worried about my personal safety all the time, but I know many people who do. And it is something that lingers in the back of your mind when you touch your partner, wife, or even a date’s hand in public or lean in for a kiss.
It also means, especially for men and trans people, that public restrooms are not safe. A good friend of mine is afraid to leave his dog in his car at rest stops in case he is attacked in a bathroom, possibly killed or taken to the hospital, and no one knows to check his car. This may seem extreme to some, but to him, it is a very real fear, as it is for many in the community.
Although marriage equality should help the fight for adoption by same-sex couples, many states still have barriers that make it hard or even impossible to do. From laws banning second-parent adoption to private adoption agencies that turn down gay couples, this is discrimination in its most basic form. Studies show that what a child needs more than a mom and a dad is responsible, committed, stable parenting. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.
Health Insurance Coverage
When we were just partners, I could get insurance through my partner’s work but didn’t because it was twice as expensive as what I could get through my employer. Once we were married, the price went down considerably. Health insurance coverage is tricky and by no means uniform.
Some bigger or more prominent companies in more competitive job markets such as technology and innovation offer insurance for same-sex partnerships, civil unions, and same-sex marriages. Still, it’s always a good idea to check, as the price of the coverage may differ from that of married couples, regardless of sex.
Some battles can’t be won in the courtroom alone. Laws and judicial decisions help, but in real life, L.G.B.T.Q. people still face numerous issues such as discrimination, hate, and fear that result in mental, emotional, and physical harm. While the U.S. has come a long way in protecting the rights of the L.G.B.T.Q. citizens, and I am thankful for it, there’s still a lot of work to do. Let’s remember to begin with acceptance.