Wednesday, December 3, 2008

So America Isn't So Homophobic?

I guess not. Believe it or not, most Americans don't hate queer people!

- Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) favor either marriage or domestic partnerships/civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Only about two in 10 (22%) say gay and lesbian couples should have no legal recognition.

– Almost two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults favor allowing openly gay military personnel to serve in the armed forces.

– About six in 10 (63%) U.S. adults favor expanding hate crime laws to cover gay and transgender people.

– Nearly seven out of 10 U.S. adults (69%) oppose laws that would ban qualified gay and lesbian couples from adopting children.

So why do we keep hearing about this nation's "gay problem"? Well, it's not that hard to explain. People are still scared of "The M Word".

Yes, that's right. Marriage. There's this disconnect in many people's heads between supporting equal rights for all and knowing that separate isn't equal.

I occasionally ran into this problem when I was out campaigning against Prop 8 here in California. There would always be a few who'd ask me why we couldn't be happy that domestic partnerships "are just like marriage". I'd respond that domestic partnerships are not "just like marriage" because they're not marriage and they only provide 1/3 the same rights as marriage, as the other 2/3 are federal rights that are blocked under DOMA.

I just don't get it. On one hand, straight Americans seem more accepting of LGBT people than ever before. They support hate crimes laws, open military service, adoption rights, and essentially all the rights of marriage for gay & lesbian couples. But for some reason, people still stop and freak out over that actual one word: marriage.

So what can we do? First off, we need to continue educating people about what marriage really means. No, there's no threat to any churches. No, it doesn't force any one to do anything against his/her will. All it means is that all loving couples are treated equally under the law.

And secondly, we need to hold our newly elected officials accountable. Contrary to what some Beltway Pundits say about President Obama not being "too connected to the homosexual agenda", there's obviously support for equal rights. We can begin to make progress nationally by repealing DOMA, the current federal law that forbids recognition of any state or local same-sex union. By repealing DOMA, gay & lesbian couples actually would have the same rights as married straight couples. Also, we can urge Congress & the President to pass ENDA & allow open military service. No one should be discriminated at work, whether it's in the Marines or at the office near the marina, for one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It's just not right, and it's about time for the federal government to recognize that.

So is America ready for change that queer people can believe in? It seems likely now. We just need to continue educating the public on the change we really need while demanding that our government do what's right for all of us. Can we make it happen?

Yes, we can.


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