It has been an up-and-down couple of years for LGBT Americans. In 2009, several states, including Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Iowa, voted on and legalized same-sex marriage, Additionally, several states, including Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, and Wisconsin, introduced civil union protections for same-sex couples that include medical decisions and tax benefits. However, also in 2009, an eleven-year-old boy was bullied into suicide in April, Proposition 8 was upheld by a 6-1 vote by the California Supreme Court, Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons vetoed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and Maine voted to repeal the recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage.
This year was no different. In 2010, an Arkansas circuit court mandated that same-sex couples cannot be discriminated against in adoption cases, marriage licenses were issued in Washington DC, controversial sections of the Defense of Marriage act were ruled unconstitutional, DADT was struck down by District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, same-sex adoption was legalized in New York, and Proposition 8 wasruled unconstitutional by the district court.
But also in 2010, New Jersey Supreme Court refuses to hear the case of six complaints over discrepancies in the civil union law, an Arkansas School Board member named Clint McCance is found to be encouraging LGBT students to commit suicide, the ruling of Judge Phillips on DADT is appealed and the injunction lifted, and Senator John McCain asserts publicly that DADT should not be repealed.
Also this year, in September, six young men committed suicide over tremendous bullying, sometimes violent, that they had to endure over their sexual orientation. Notably amongst these suicides was an accomplished violinist, Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge to his death after a video of him with another man was released on YouTube. A study released that same month by the advocacy group Campus Pride revealed that approximately 25% of all LGBT youth and faculty of American education institutions endure harassment by their peers for their lifestyle. And today, it was announced on Science Daily that, according to a study conducted by researchers at Yale University and set to be published in January of 2011, LGBT youth are 40% more likely to receive punitive action than the complementary misbehavior of their straight counterparts. The study was careful to point out that there was no discrepancy in the measure of misbehavior, only in the exacted punishment.
While great strides have been taken in the legal system to combat LGBT discrimination, there still appears to be a sentiment of prejudice amongst Americans today. Whether it be at the hands of secular considerations surrounding marriage or the military, or religious assertions that homosexuality is a sin, the common conception is almost always that LGBT people are inherently different, and the gulf between understanding has not been shrinking at a satisfactory rate.
In the discussions of DADT, much has been made over the potential integration of LGBT people within fighting forces. Some have confusingly argued that LGBT people are incapable of the same measure of patriotism and mettle that straight soldiers exhibit. Even senators, the assumed representatives of the American populace, are contending that there will be difficulty assimilating LGBT people into the military, demonstrating a belief that LGBT people are fundamentally odd and require delicate consideration.
In debate over same-sex marriage, there has been significant opposition on the backs of an argument that same-sex marriage sullies the sanctity of the concept of marriage. This assertion, while common in religious debate, has even been made by secular groups, furthering the notion that LGBT love is unnatural, unclean and unworthy of the same reverent touch that heterosexual love is often regarded. This has certainly had a negative impact on young men and women, who are being pushed to confusion and a feeling of shame over who they are.
And now, it seems, our entire authoritarian system, from schools to police to the courts, has been unfairly tilted against LGBT youth, even when their misbehavior is complementary to that of a heterosexual youth. There is often even no solace for this repressed group in the home, which is crucial for the mental development of young men and women, according to a study recently released in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.
I do believe that most rational adults have the right mindset, and this sanity has been making inroads in the political and judicial system, as identified in the successes of the LGBT community during the past two years which are listed above. But there is still much more to be done, as exemplified in the senatorial hearings of recent days over DADT and the rash of terrifying studies that have been released outlining the tribulations of young LGBT Americans. I can only hope that this issue remains in the national consciousness on some level throughout the foreseeable future, even if it is not always at the forefront.
Equality should, by way of constitutional mandate, always be of principal concern to all who call themselves American.