A ban on domestic partner benefits in the state of Michigan is one signature away from being official. Once Governor Snyder signs the legislation banning domestic partner benefits to public employees in the state of Michigan, many residents of the state will have to rethink where they can live and work. The legislation will come into affect immediately, causing an upheaval in the lives of many (Maynard). Although this law applies to all domestic partners, many see it as an attack on the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community (Tagharobi). Many of the gay couples that this affects would rather not be in a domestic partnership in the first place, but would be married instead. Because the state of Michigan does not allow gay citizens the opportunity to get married, one of their only choices is to enter a domestic partnership. With this new legislation, couples that have been together for years will lose another benefit that married couples receive.
In my mind, I see the current day situation with gay citizens as a form of intolerance similar to that of the Civil Rights Era (and unfortunately before and after as well). Although gays are not being blasted with hoses, made to drink from separate water fountains, forced to sit in the back of buses, etc. they are still seen as second-class citizens by many people in the United States. There are still hate crimes that LGBT persons are involved in, causing irreparable harm. Whether it is physically murdering a member of the gay community, or bullying them enough so that they feel no other option other than to give up, injustices against the LGBT continue to damage society.
One of the most frustrating things for me about intolerance of gays is the removal of their rights. Legislation banning domestic partner benefits can be seen as something similar to literacy tests. Neither is not technically a direct attack on either the gay or African American community, but the people in these communities are the ones affected most and very blatantly targeted. There are, however, direct attacks associated with laws and regulations. For example, gay men are still not allowed to donate blood, in fear of AIDS. Many still feel uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality, and allow the stigma associated with gays to continue.
Despite the long list of injustices, progress has been made. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was recently repealed by President Obama, and same-sex marriage is now legal in six states and Washington D.C. (Ring). However, intolerance and homophobia is still abundant in the United States. In Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s recent political ad, Perry displays his opposition to LGBT rights, protesting their ability to serve in the military (Perry). Perry knows that he can appeal to many Americans who are still against marriage (or relationships in general) being between anything other than a man and a woman. In many of the ways that Rick Perry and others speak out against LGBT rights, people of the 1960’s protested equal rights for African Americans.
Many similarities exist between the oppression of African Americans and the oppression of LGBT people. Just aas race is not a choice, neither is sexual orientation. However, people use these two portions of identity to classify citizens’ roles in society. The inequalities and struggles of African Americans in the 1960’s are illustrated well in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. King outlines the problems that the African America community faced during the Civil Rights Movement, and explained why peaceful demonstrations seemed to be the only option. He believed that where negotiation fails, more action must be taken, but only in a peaceful manner (King Jr., 2). I believe that sooner or later the movement to attempt to gain equal rights for gays will end up becoming even more similar to that of the Civil Rights Movement than what it is now. There are marches and demonstrations that currently occur, but I think that the movement will gain more momentum once more people are further exposed to the injustices that are present in society. As King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King Jr., 1). Although bigotry is more prominent in some areas than others, things like Perry’s ad wake citizens up to the fact that this kind of mindset exists and intolerance continues to thrive, and must be corrected unless people want it to spread any further.
With the help of the internet, LGBT activists spread awareness and educate people about the rights and dreams of the gay community. Through persistence, and showing the world the shocking truth (such as police dogs attacking children), parts of the country that was not involved in as much racism as the South found out about what was going on and decided to take a stand. The Civil Rights Movement succeeded with the hep of the media, national attention, and legislation. In the future, just like with African Americans, I am confident that gays will be given the same rights as everyone else. Hopefully people will take a leaf out of Dr. King’s book and choose the peaceful route to spread the word and show people the light.
King Jr., Martin Luther. A Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 1963.
Maynard, Mark. “Michigan legislature moves to outlaw domestic partner benefits in violation of the State Constitution… Will Snyder veto?.” http://markmaynard.com/?p=16739. December 8, 2011.
Perry, Rick. “Strong.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PAJNntoRgA.
Ring, Wilson. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal: Navy Lt. Gary Ross, Partner Dan Swezy Wed As Military’s Gay Ban Formally Ends.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-wedding_n_971128.html. September 20, 2011.
Tagharobi, Sherene. “Michigan One Signature Away from Domestic Partner Benefits Ban.” http://www.wilx.com/news/headlines/Domestic_Partner_Benefits__135348608.html. December 9, 2011.