Comment: written by George King.
After the recent Orlando shooting, the LGBT+ community is experiencing a conflicting whirlwind of both optimism and pessimism. However, the movement will not progress until underlying issues, such as the hypocrisy of US politicians, are addressed
On June 26, 2015, the US supreme court ruled, in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, that state bans on same-sex marriages are ‘unconstitutional’. For the LGBT+ community across the US this was a signal of optimism and an indication of the profound shift of culture throughout the country towards a more understanding and welcoming nation towards LGBT rights.
Nonetheless, the Orlando Shootings, with its 49 victims to disgraceful homophobia, stresses the need for much more to be done to protect LGBT+ rights in the US; both socially and politically.
The two decisive means for LGBT+ rights to be protected in the US would be repealing legal discrimination against LGBT+ people and working in schools and workplaces across the US to help educate citizens against hate. While this sounds like a simple and logical process, it is becoming a more and more difficult to progress with so many US politicians against LGBT rights.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading republican figure and republican candidate for the 2016 US presidency wished to repeal same-sex marriage and discrimination protection, both key factors in LGBT+ rights. Yet Rubio stated on his Senate office Youtube account: “when it impacts a community you know well, it really gives you pause, to think a little bit about your service to your country and where you can be most useful to your country”. Not only has Rubio spun the events of the shootings towards his campaign, but he has also regarded a community and alienated as ‘his community’.
Moreover, when the issue of LGBT+ people being refused employment was brought up in 2013, and these comprehensive national rights should be extended to the workplace, Speaker of the House John Boehner stated that he “didn’t see a basis or a need for it.”.
Rubio & Boehner are two among numerous US politicians against LGBT+ rights, unfortunately, a few words of encouragement after a mass shooting won’t make the LGBT+ community feel any more protected. Until there is more protection for LGBT+ people under the law, there will be little optimism within these communities.
Peter Tatchell, a global human and LGBT+ rights ambassador stated the Orlando shootings as an ‘extreme example of what happens every day’ to the LGBT+ community in the US. Tatchell isn’t wrong, there are clear statistics proving the lack of protection for LGBT+ people across the US.
For example, 1 in 4 Americans are opposed to equal protection rights being extended to the LGBT+ community, and 1 in 5 Americans believes that transgender individuals shouldn’t receive any equal protection. The discrimination worsens: an estimated 3 in 10 Americans believe that same sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to raise children in their home.
If the issue is not already bad enough in the wider community, it appears the problem with LGBT+ rights and acceptance has a deeper root; half of teens that come out as being LGBT+ state that their parents have had a negative reaction to the news, and 1 in 4 report that their parents kicked them out of the home.
Furthermore, US LGBT+ people face discrimination in the workplace just as much as they do at home; ‘up to 41 percent of LGBT employees say that they’ve either been physically or verbally abused by their co-workers or had their workplace vandalized.’ Many of these abuses are unreported by the victims, and until more is done to ensure a safe space for all LGBT+ people to be listened to and talk about their discrimination, then unfortunately little will be done to protect LGBT+ rights.
There are cries from many US citizens that LGBT+ laws may inflict on religion, but, there is little discrimination towards the Christian community when compared to the discrimination the LGBT+ community faces everyday.
While same-sex marriage was a significant moment in the optimism for LGBT+ Americans, their political and social struggle continues with US politicians persistently denying the evident discrimination the LGBT+ community suffers, and the lack of protection for LGBT+ people in their domestic and working lives. Until leading US political figures identify this issue, the Orlando shootings shall remain a microcosm for the lack of protection LGBT+ people have in the US.