It was, and is, my view that basic nondiscrimination legislation is the most pressing issue facing the LGBT community nationally — and by the numbers, it is. Some feel that gay marriage should be our prime objective. The reality is that not all LGBT people are in relationships and, regardless of whether you are and if you wish to marry, you can still endure discrimination on the basis of being LGBT with or without a marriage license in most of the United States.
But what struck me most was an example Thomas Walters gave on his blog, which he credits to Ted Martin of Equality Pennsylvania. The scenario goes:
You and your boyfriend get married on a Saturday afternoon, but are denied accommodations at a hotel on Saturday night, when you want to have your honeymoon. On Tuesday, you go to find a bigger apartment, but are told they do not rent to homosexuals, and when the current landlord finds out, she evicts you. On Wednesday, your employer finds out and fires you. By Thursday, you are married, but living in a cardboard box, homeless and without a job.
Regardless of the marriage issue, basic equality is denied to most Americans. It is also the one issue that most Americans of all stripes — even Republicans — support. Of course, marriage equality is important and no one is saying otherwise. But so are our endangered LGBT youth, our seniors and the transgender members of our community. And what about the couples among us with children who need government services? All good issues. The reality is this community is fighting for equality and equality means a level field with all other taxpayers.
History is the best example of the struggle for equality. Look no further than the civil-rights battle in the 1960s. All the issues facing the LGBT community were, at that time, facing the African-American community. Look again at the 1950s and the battles the Jewish community fought to get their youth into medical and law schools. Look at the battle the Irish fought to get into construction and even onto the police forces of many cities.
There are many more examples. But they all relied on the nation’s nondiscrimination law, or fought to be included. Let’s not forget voting rights.
Marriage equality is important, but the rights of a majority of our community cannot be put on hold.
One last point. Like equal rights, marriage equality is a matter of educating the public on what equality means and that they have nothing to fear. Fighting for nondiscrimination is actually the road to marriage equality. They really are the same battle.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having recently received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from the 2,000-member Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.