“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free” – Obama
Last month, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in every U.S. state. It was a long time coming, but reflected the majority of poll takers and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage. With the victory now behind us, this country cannot rest on its laurels as there are many LGBT issues that have gone unresolved.
Twenty-nine states lack laws banning sexual orientation discrimination and even more (thirty-two) don’t prohibit it when it comes to gender identity. There is still no federal law banning discrimination against LGBT Americans in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit, as well as in federal lending and jury service.
The only federal antidiscrimination protections exist in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes a broad exemption that allows discrimination by a “corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society” owned by a religious institution (most likely the ones who would discriminate.) ENDA’s religious exemption is much broader than that of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII.
Surveys Report Unfair Treatment
In 2013, a Pew Research survey found that 21% of LGBT participants had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotions. That same year, the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA, reported that between 15% to 43% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers have experienced being fired, denied promotion or harassed. A Gallup survey, also in 2013, found that 35% of LGBT adults reported annual incomes below $24,000 compared to 24% of the general population.
In the majority of U.S. states, conversion or reparative therapy is regularly practiced. Although it was outlawed in California, New Jersey and Washington, religious institutions still use its gay-to-straight ideology that has proven to result in depression, low self-esteem, even suicide in its LGBT population looking to convert. Even one of its proponents, Robert Spitzer, M.D., disclaimed the benefits of reparative therapy.
Hate Crime Laws
Currently, fourteen states with hate crime laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity . Six states have no such protections at all. According to journalist, Radio Show host and author of It’s Not Over (2015), Michaelangelo Signorile, “homophobia hasn’t simply persisted, it has become more public and more violent in response to the increased visibility of gay and transgender people that wins such as marriage equality have brought.”
The first federal health survey to include gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, in 2014, showed that lesbian and bisexual women had higher obesity rates than straight women , higher rates of psychological stress among bisexuals, and higher rates of smoking and binge drinking among all three groups compared to heterosexuals.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report in 2014 concluded that 47% of gay men have not told their doctors about their sexual orientation. Many medical doctors were not trained in medical school about issues surrounding the gay population. Fifty-six of gay men have never suggested an HIV test for their patients.
Diagnosis rates have risen among young gay and bisexual men while the Centers for Disease Control has cut its HIV-prevention budget over the years to gay men. A majority of those with HIV are unaware of their status. In order to donate blood, LGBT donors are expected to abstain from sex for a year before donating.
The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State shows that LGBT teens who would rather live on the streets than be shamed at home account for 40% of the homeless even though they are believed to represent less than 10% of all teens.
As you can expect, these rejected teens have less self-esteem, greater depression than their heterosexual contemporaries as well as a higher suicide rate.
Full Parental Rights
Often, with gay couples, only one parent is able to adopt a child or is often turned away by an adoption agency’discriminatory policies couched in religious exemptions. Toward that end, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) reintroduced The Every Child Deserve A Family Act, a bill that would bar adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal dollars from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Currently, only seven states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in adoption and only five explicitly ban discrimination in foster care.
Fighting for LGBT Rights
These are just some of the issues that need to be worked on for full equality. As it stands now, as Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign points out, it is possible for a gay person to get married in the morning, and by the afternoon, be fired from his job, and evicted from his apartment, just because of whom he loves.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.