December 8, 2016

Marriage equality overshadows LGBTQ oppression

Illustration by Victoria Courtney

Illustration by Victoria Courtney

By Henrietta Campbell

Webster University’s annual Human Rights Conference featured the rights of the family as its focus, and could not be more on time. These rights relate to the freedom to found a family and the right to full and free consent of marriage, to name a few. A contemporary context of family rights are those belonging to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ).

National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry Marc Solomon presented as the keynote speaker for the conference. The Freedom to Marry movement has been pivotal in supporting and expanding marriage equality on a state-by-state basis.

Marriage equality ventures beyond traditional, heteronormative views of partnerships to include formal unions between (two) people of the same sex. A major surge from the gay rights movement has gone toward this cause.

Calling to attention a new Supreme Court decision to remain silent on their stance of marriage, their actions have created rippling effects in American society.

Praises on the Supreme Court’s “neutrality” translated as support for some. The court declined the duty to review renewed bans on same-sex marriage, also called gay marriage. Their inaction led to defaulted victories preserving marriage equality in Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin, according to a news article in the Washington Post

Author of the article Robert Barnes acknowledged that even though the federal appeals court has denied some claims, courts at the state level still have the power to uphold and reissue bans against same-sex marriage. Mimicking this positivity, opponents of gay marriage are also encouraged by the court’s decision.

A legislative stalemate is not a win. With maintained court and state backing, the rights of LGBTQ people can and will be sustainably denied. The societal climate of a state, given their attitudes and views toward LGBTQ people, is an indicator of who will be deemed as equals versus second class citizens.

In contrast to court supporters, others are troubled with this public showing of federal inaction. Their input could have clarified and closed some of the legal debate surrounding marriage equality for the United States. The rights of LGBTQ people are still overlooked and ignored in more homophobic communities, most notably small towns.

In the wake of the Supreme Court declining involvement in these cases against marriage equality, three states — Arkansas, Alaska and Wyoming — overturned previously-standing marriage protection laws, according to Life Site News Their state courts were able to abolish equal marital protections because of the court’s refusal to address the constitutionality of marriage bans.


Fearing my safety supersedes a fear of not living under institutionalized marriage in America.


An important highlight to the Supreme Court’s decisions can be seen by which states allow same-sex marriage in America today. Kirsten Anderson, in her news article for Life Site, said “Friday’s court rulings bring the total number of states allowing legal same-sex ‘marriage’ to 32. Out of those, 20 were the result of state or federal courts overturning state law.” The power of the court to encourage communities to embrace differences directly impacts stigmatized groups and ideas.

I agree with those LGBTQ people who view marriage rights of a lesser importance compared to rights to life, liberty and safety. The conference explored a need to reform the language of international law to be more accommodating to diverse and non-traditional families. Whether those be same-sex, polyamorous or single-coupled families, the court is needed to facilitate long-term societal changes in America.

Aside from marriage equality, looming behind it are the hopes of some LGBTQ people and allies for “radical” societal change. I view marriage as a status marker — a deeply empathetic, measurable action battling for national recognition.

On the other hand, more activism-based, immeasurable issues include freedom from discrimination (and/or termination) regarding employment, housing and harassment. In his article “While Others Celebrate, Some in the Queer Community Wonder if Not Now, When?” Huffington Post Writer Victor Feraru said a basic freedom to life is threatened when the lived reality for many LGBTQ youth and adults is a life combating fear, especially for transgender and queer people of color,

Fearing my safety supersedes a fear of not living under institutionalized marriage in America. Saving lives should be on the forefront — either beside or before marriage equality rights.

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