Another Year, More Progress

In the United States, June is LGBT History Month. At least, it has been under our last two Democratic presidents. It’s also the month that features the highest concentration of pride parades around the country, including Capital Pride in DC, Philly Pride in Philadelphia, and NYC Pride in Manhattan.

The year that has elapsed since the last slate of gay pride parades has been a legendary one here in the United States where it seems society is finally willing to take a leadership role in the fight to give gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals equal rights and equitable protections under the law. In just the month of May alone, three states moved ahead with marriage equality. Today, a full 25 percent of all states allow same-sex unions.

The Supreme Court is poised to deliver decisions later this month regarding the legality of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, and the Defense of Marriage Act seems to be all but overturned by the same court in a separate decision that will quickly follow the Prop 8 news. A slim and growing majority of Americans nationwide support marriage equality, while a vast majority of Americans support recognition of same-sex relationships in the form of marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. A large majority of Americans also support workplace anti-discrimination laws and hate crime protections for their LGBT peers.

This is big news. Really, this is huge. During 2004, when I was able to cast my vote for the first time, anti-gay marriage amendments passed in every state where they were on the ballot. Other states passed anti-gay marriage statutes. Hate crimes were a daily problem and a pressing threat. And no president had ever endorsed same-sex marriage, not by a long shot. It should be noted, however, that the battle is far from over.

A full 75 percent of states do not currently support legal gay marriages, nor do they recognize such unions done in states where the practice is legal. Many states still don’t offer same-sex protections from employment discrimination and hate crime targeting. It’s likely that the Supreme Court decision concerning Prop 8 won’t make marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states. And violence against the gay community continues to be a threat as those opposed to gay Americans lash out in the face of civil rights gains.

This year, let’s celebrate the growing acceptance of the LGBT community nationwide. Let’s dance in the streets as equals where the law finally recognizes us as such, in New York and Delaware and Maryland and Washington and Minnesota and DC and scores of other states. But let’s remember that, once the booze is cleaned up and the confetti is swept away, there are battles to be fought, court cases to win, and rights still to be secured for millions of Americans who don’t have the benefit of living on the coast.