It’s been more than two and half years since the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges held that our Constitution guarantees us both the fundamental right to marry and the ancillary benefits associated with a legal marriage. The Williams Institute reports that as of June 2017, there are approximately 550,000 same-sex couples married nationwide, including 157,000 who married since Obergefell. It is not possible to over-emphasize the historical significance of this legal decision, which acknowledges that LGBTQ people are entitled to be a part of society’s oldest and most traditional institutions, which provides more than a thousand state and federal legal benefits and protections to same-sex couples and their families.
And yet, we know that the goals of complete LGBTQ equality have not been achieved. Michigan, like 29 other states, lacks civil rights laws that specifically prohibit discrimination based and sexual orientation and gender identity.
We know that current Michigan family law fails to recognize LGBTQ parent-child relationships that were established prior to marriage equality. We see our opponents attempt to justify unfair treatment of us because of their “religious beliefs,” maintaining that those beliefs provide them with a license to discriminate — in employment, in public accommodations(a bakery and medical services), in foster care and adoption and in our public schools.
The Trump Administration Justice Department has given tacit approval and support for this position, arguing in courts that there is a constitutionally protected right to discriminate LGBTQ people, regardless of civil rights laws and other legal protections.
The struggle continues and it is essential that the LGBTQ community works with other coalitions and organizations to ensure that our civil rights movement continues beyond the right to legally marry.
Part of our ability to both successfully educate, organize and advocate for ourselves is dependent upon how strong we identify as LGBTQ individuals and as part of the LGBT Community. But how has marriage equality impacted that identity and our affiliation with the LGBTQ community?
For years both society and laws marginalized us — considering our lifestyle and relationships to be both unhealthy and unstable. This forced us to develop our own unique LGBTQ identity and to form relationships and a community that some would view as unconventional, in order for us to live as our authentic selves. Now that we have to access to the most traditional and conventional institution, do we feel less LGBTQ? If so, could this have negative consequences for addressing the remaining challenges to full equality?
On Thursday, February 8, 2018 Seattle therapist Joshua Magallanes and myself will be offering a workshop that explores the both the current state of LGBTQ rights post-Obergefell, as well as addresses the impact of marriage equality on both our identity and relationships.
We hope to have both a lively and thoughtful discussion about how this historical Supreme Court decision has not only changed our lives (in having the choice and opportunity to marry), but also the way we view ourselves as LGBT people. We hope to see you there at Affirmations Community Center at 7 P.M.
Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joshua Magallanes is a Seattle-based therapist specializing in the LGBTQ community. He can be reached at joshuatherapy.com. Find out more about the workshop HERE.