Struggle for LGBT rights a national, local issue


One of the hottest topics of discussion in recent weeks has been the amount of circulating legislation that would allow same sex couples to be legally married. In February, Washington and Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, making them the ninth and 10th states, respectively, to pass same-sex marriage laws.

The first state to pass a same-sex marriage law was Massachusetts in 2004. Then came Connecticut in 2008 and Iowa and Vermont in 2009. In 2010, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. both made it legal for same sex couples to get married. Last year, New York passed the same law.

“I feel it’s great and it’s about time,” said Tony Juliano, resident of Chicago and a gay man. “It’s unsettling, to say the least, about the national view of ambivalence and all of the wavering that goes on with regards to same-sex marriage.”

Another piece of the issue surrounding same-sex marriage nationwide is the repeal of Proposition 8 in California. According to a Feb. 7 article on, Judge Stephen Reinhardt commented on the majority opinion by saying, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.'”

This decision has left a lot of room open for discussion, making some people quite wary of how this will pan out in the rest of the nation.

“I honestly think it’s stupid that more states allow first cousins to marry, but think that homosexuals will ‘destroy’ straight marriages,” said Taylor Harmon, freshman in English. “I think it’s unconstitutional to not allow same-sex marriage. I thought it was equality for all, not just for straight people.”

Even with the many pieces of legislation that have been passed all over the nation, there is still a national piece of legislation titled the Defense Of Marriage Act, signed into law on Sept. 21, 1996. DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman nationwide, but individual states are able to make their own decisions to pass pieces of legislation that allows same sex couples to legally marry. The Obama administration currently stands against DOMA and no longer defends the constitutionality of the legislation.

“The government still denies some 1,000 couples rights to married homosexual couples that they extend to married heterosexual couples,” Garner said. “The repeal of DOMA is key to making those marriages equal in word and deed. As well, I go back to the basic human rights that most of the LGBT community are denied in most places in the U.S.”

This is an issue that has even affected the Manhattan community. According to the City of Manhattan website, on Feb. 8, 2011, the City Commission passed a discrimination ordinance including sexual orientation as a protected class. The ordinance also included protection of gender identity, making Manhattan one of few cities in the nation to protect transgender people. The ordinance was repealed on May 4, 2011, and these groups of people are no longer protected within city limits.

“There is no question we have moved light-years in the last year and a half,” Garner said. “This is largely due to incredible work by tireless grassroots activists, both on the state and national levels. I look forward to those that now enjoy their marriage rights and ability to serve openly in the military use their momentum to continue working on bills such as ENDA on the national level, all the way down to the non-discrimination ordinance that the Manhattan City Commission passed and then subsequently repealed.”

Members of the LGBT community say their fight for equal rights is not a niche struggle, but a struggle that includes all humankind.

“It’s not just a ‘gay issue,'” Juliano said. “This is an ‘everyone issue.’ Everybody knows a LGBT individual, whether they are aware of it or not. We need to support each other to eradicate archaic ways of thinking in order to bring a new wave of tolerance.”