In the months leading up to and the weeks immediately following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage across the country, discussion of LGBTQ+ rights advancement dominated media on both the national and local levels. The court’s decision will go down as one of the most important in judicial history, and has had a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of LGBTQ+ individuals across the United States. However, there are still many issues that continue to afflict the LGBTQ+ community that should, and eventually must, be addressed—most importantly, workplace discrimination, unequal access to healthcare, and violence.
Over the last year, discussion about the aforementioned issues, apart from isolated incidents, has been virtually nonexistent in mainstream media. It is almost as if in legalizing gay marriage, legislators feel the box for LGBTQ+ rights has been checked. The sad truth of the matter is that for many LGBTQ+ individuals, equality is still a distant dream.
Take the issue of workplace discrimination, for example. While many states have instituted laws that prohibit bias in hiring, firing, job assignment, and compensation, as well as harassment on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, the majority have not. Even fewer states have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
According to the 2008 General Social Survey, over one in four LGBT employees report discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Another, more recent survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in 2014 found that nine percent of LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.
Despite the efforts of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to expand protection for LGBTQ+ individuals under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there still exists no federal statute explicitly addressing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2015, Representative David Cicilline (D – R.I.) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D – Ore.) introduced the Equality Act, a bill that, if passed, would do what the EEOC has been trying to do for the past decade. As of now, it is still under deliberation.
Even if this bill is enacted, LGBTQ+ equality will likely remain illusory. Ultimately, all prejudice stems from deeply rooted ideological differences; that concerning sexual orientation and identity is no exception. Just this year, Pew Research Center found that 37 percent of Americans still oppose gay marriage. That rate is even higher among Republicans at a startling 67 percent.
Thus, the only true remedy to inequality is time, and probably lots of it. Until the time comes when people realize that all types of love and self-expression are equally valid, the LGBTQ+ community must remain strong. Granted, that’s easier said than done. But it is necessary nonetheless.
Image Credit: Austin Eder