At 10:11 a.m. today my department chair sent a myself and two colleagues a brief email: “Marriage Equality Passes 5-4”. A quick google search confirmed the news and the reality that my marriage in Massachusetts will legally move with me to Tennessee. I quickly texted my spouse, “We’re officially recognized in TN!!!” and received his “Woo-hoo!!” in response.
As the news flooded Facebook, I witnessed my married and single LGBTQ friends from across the country expressing their joy; in Georgia, New York, Vermont, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
I’m still trying to take it all in. I’ve texted my family, shared joy on a call with my friend Savannah, and been invited to share a hug or high five with my LGBTQ colleagues at lunch. I feel such joy, relief, and thankfulness that my life, relationship, and personhood have been more fully recognized through this ruling. There is a burden lifted in knowing that my spouse and I can move through the U.S. and be recognized as a legally-bound unit; that, as a queer person in a queer marriage, I do not have to secure additional legal protections to allow him to make health and financial decisions on behalf of me if needs be.
Still, I feel the push to move on. The marriage equality movement was fueled by a largely privileged majority (just peruse the HRC and Freedom to Marry leadership/staff and notice the lack of diversity). For years we have poured millions of dollars and hours into securing this civil right.
Yet, there are more basic civil rights to be attained. LGBTQ folks experience significant health disparities, are more likely to live in poverty than heterosexual counterparts, and risk hate-motivated violence and homicide. Our youth are at high risk of harassment and homelessness.
Our trans brothers and sisters are frequently made invisible; they are denied the right to be referred by gender-affirming pronouns, access healthcare that covers necessary gender-affirming medication and surgery, safely use public restrooms and lockers, and walk-in-public without risk of injury.
And [lest we forget], women, folks of color, and poor LGBTQ folks are most at risk; marginalization and oppression happens within our community too.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, there are five domains in which we must make progress to ensure that LGBT American are able to fully participate in civil and political life without discrimination; to earn a living, pursue health and happiness, take care of the ones we love, be safe in our communities, and serve our country.
These rights are not yet secure. This reality is reflected in the systems of oppression that reinforce the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ folks experience every day. While we celebrate today, we must remember that marriage equality is just a beginning. From Justice Anthony Kennedy’s marjoriy opinion:
The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.
I don’t know what’s next on the national LGBTQ agenda, but I’m advocating for change that allows all LGBTQ people to “define and express their identity”; creating universal non-discrimination laws, dismantling systems of oppression that marginalize people within our community, and increasing safety and well-being for all in our community.