By Kaylia Metcalfe
(Author’s note: This article was finished and submitted on Nov. 15; some things might have changed since then.)
This year was, in many ways, a banner year for LGBT rights and equality. The snowball of marriage equality in the United States seems to be in full force and even setbacks really only serve a larger good by making same-sex marriage issues Supreme Court ready.
Doubtless you are already aware that Amazon Prime broke all the rules when it ordered not just one but two seasons of Transparent, a drama about a transgender woman in her 60s. And 2014 was also the year when names like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock became household words, where even more celebrities came out, where LGBT issues made it into the locker rooms and onto mainstream TV, where a record-setting number of LGBT community members and allies were voted or appointed into positions of power and authority, and where we saw a community backlash against the HIV preventive pills.
So, let’s take a quick look at what has happened this year not only in the United States and in terms of marriage equality and pop culture but also some important things worldwide that might not have made it to your Facebook feed.
- Nigeria passed a law that makes same-sex marriage illegal, along with public displays of same-sex relationships and belonging to homosexual groups. Punishment is up to 14 years in prison, while Northern Cyprus repealed Criminal Code provisions that had punished consensual sexual acts between adult men.
- The Scottish and the Luxemburg Parliaments approved same-sex marriage bills. In England and Wales, same-sex marriages started under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013.
- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations, however, the Constitutional Court of Uganda invalidated it when not enough members of parliament were present to vote.
- Malta and the Croatian Parliament both approved civil partnership bills, and Estonia became the first former Soviet country to recognize same-sex partnerships.
- The Mexican state of Coahuila voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and Mexico City approved a bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender without a court order. India also now officially recognizes a third gender after a Supreme Court ruling.
- A Malaysian appeals court overturned a ban on men and transwomen wearing women’s clothing.
Closer to home, President Barack Obama signed an executive order expanding employment protections for federal workers and contractors to include gender identity. This order also bans sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination for companies receiving federal contracts.
What this all means is that LGBT equality is not just the hot topic, but the topic in terms of politics and culture wars.
With marriage becoming an almost forgone conclusion in the United States, it is time to turn our attention to the next batch of issues: equality in pay, housing, medical access, adoption, employment and, perhaps hardest of all, acceptance. With new hate crime reporting tools, feminist backlash and the GOP near sweep during our last round of elections, it is important to not lose momentum. We are on the road, but we still have far to go.
For example, there are still 29 states where you can be fired for being gay. That accounts for more than half the workers in the country who don’t have employment protection at the federal, state or city level. Also, only 16 countries worldwide allow for same-sex couple adoption across the board. (The United States is not one of them as we still have five states that don’t allow for LGBT adoption.)
But let’s end on a high note: Here is a quick breakdown of where marriage equality stands in the United States as of right now:
- Thirty-three states (and the District of Columbia) have legal same-sex marriage (by court decision: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming; by state legislation: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont; by popular vote: Maine, Maryland and Washington).
- Seventeen states ban same-sex marriage (by constitutional amendment and state law: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas; by constitutional amendment only: Nebraska).
Kaylia Metcalfe is a local writer and activist. She serves on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors, is a co-founder of Skeptics Without a Cause and keeps busy blogging, running a book club, volunteering and raising the future leader of the free world. Her short story collection “Links” is available at www.amazon.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.