I think that sometimes I take for granted that everyone else isn’t inside my head. Believe me, that’s a good thing (for all of us), but just in terms of some knowledge, I want to make sure we all understand what I’m talking about.
Chances are you’ll recognize or know some of what I’m talking about below, maybe even all of it, but I hope you learn something. I’ve tried to organize it in sections, hopefully it makes sense. I also tried to keep it brief, there are of course many more details and many more subjects I did not get to, and I'm focused on Pennsylvania, since I'm here. Your mileage may vary.
There’s a lot we should be proud of (ignoring the fact that we had to fight for what few rights we have), and a lot to continue to work for. There are many people we owe quite a bit to, and all those we continue to fight for. Let’s get started.
Hank Green (SciShow, Crash Course, Vlog Brothers), sums up the biological side of things pretty succinctly and is a good place to start:
Lawrence v Texas
This 2003 supreme court case struck down anti-sodomy laws across the country, although many still remain on the books. Anti-sodomy laws were used primarily against the LGBT community to literally invade their bedrooms and arrest them, while heterosexuals engaged in any sodomy behavior (any sex not for procreation) were not prosecuted. This was actually the second time these laws were brought before the supreme court, the first being 1986’s Bowers v Hardwick. Basically, before these laws, it was illegal to be LGBT in states with these laws.
Federal hate crime legislation protects citizens against hate crimes based on a variety of classes, and in 2009, sexual orientation and gender expression were finally added (as well as other expansions of the law). Hate crime protection gives police forces additional funds to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, as well as bringing stronger sentences for those convicted. Fun fact, heterosexuals are now finally protected from hate crimes by homosexuals as well.
It was not until 2011, after a series of high-profile incidents, that hospital visitation rights were extended to the LGBT community (in hospitals receiving federal aid). Imagine not being allowed to be next to the person you love as they lie dying in a hospital. Powers of attorney, patient wishes and even civil unions had been ignored, leading to the necessity of an executive order.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the policy, fully repealed in 2011, that made LGB members of the armed forces hide who they were or face a dishonorable discharge. Members of the military can still be dismissed for being transgendered.
Defense of Marriage Act is what currently defines federal marriage law and the reciprocity between states’ marriage laws. The federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, so couples in states with marriage equality are barred from over 1,100 rights and must file separate tax returns. Lambda Legal brought the case Windsor v United States to the supreme court to overturn parts of DOMA, especially those dealing with federal recognition and taxation. Edith Windsor is a widow, but was forced to pay over $300,000 in estate taxes when her wife died, since in the eyes of the federal government they were strangers.
While all 50 states have reciprocity of heterosexual marriage (i.e., when you get married in one state, you’re recognized as such in all 50), each state may individually decide whether or not to recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships for other states, leading to a patchwork of legality for same-sex couples as they travel across the country.
This video, shows why fighting DOMA is so crucially important:
Proposition 8 is the ballot initiative that removed the rights of same-sex couples to legally marry in California, creating three classes of people in the state: heterosexuals, homosexuals who were not married, and homosexuals who were married, but would never be able to marry again (in case of the death of a spouse or divorce). AFER, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, brought the case Perry v Schwarzenegger, and it was argued before the supreme court after a string of victories for equality. Side note: Schwarzenegger and the government of California declined to defend Prop 8 in court, and as the basis of standing was examined, the case evolved and is now finally known as Hollingsworth v Perry.
One scenario, even if parts of DOMA is repealed, is the continuation of a country with a mishmash of marriage laws. Fighting for full, federal marriage equality is necessary, not just for a marriage certificate, because that is not what defines a relationship, but for the social recognition, the stability of a family and the comfort that we’re all equal in the eyes of the law.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has so far, been a pipe dream. This law would make it illegal to fire (or not hire) someone based on their sexual orientation. Versions that also include gender expression have also been proposed, but to the same effect. Currently, it is completely legal to fire someone for their real or perceived sexual orientation.
Student Non-Discrimination Act, the same as ENDA, but protecting students from institutionalized discrimination.
Just like employment, housing and housing loans can also be denied based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Just like the “Red Scare” of communism, this was a systematic purge of LGBT workers in the federal government.
Any man who has sex with a man (and that’s the language used), regardless of sexual orientation, since 1977 is barred from giving blood for life, according to current regulations. All blood is already screened for a multitude of diseases, but the implication here is that all gay men have HIV, or at least, we all contracted it simultaneously in 1977 and that heterosexuals have no diseases that couldn’t be detected.
Until 1991, members of the LGBT community could not legally immigrate into the United States. Immigration reform is also of special concern to the LGBT community because, when coupled with DOMA, we face extra barriers to overcome to be with the person we love, if they happen to be a citizen of another country. Bi-national same-sex couples are routinely separated, having no protection under the law, tearing apart families.
This of course, varies by area. Allegheny County, for instance, has their own version of ENDA (which does not apply to 501(c)3 charities). If I were to work less than a mile to the east, I would have absolutely no protection against employment discrimination. Philadelphia recently passed the most comprehensive protection package in the country, and Pennsylvania is once again attempting to enact statewide protections.
Boy Scouts of America
I’m not going to go into it here as it is constantly evolving and I’ve written about it...at length (and yes that was in the voice of Prof. Snape). If you’re interested, just read the rest of the blog.
Freedom of Association/Postal Service
Before 1957 it was illegal for LGBT citizens to use the postal service to promote their rights, and prior to Stonewall (and far after), LGBT groups were routinely harassed by police.
While not the first time members of the LGBT community stood up for themselves, it is what kicked off the modern gay-rights movement in 1969. After being raided, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, in New York City, stood up for themselves, were joined by fellow citizens of Greenwich Village, fought back, and the ensuing riots was the catalyst for our demand for equality.
The first out elected official in the country. Elected to the board of supervisors of San Francisco, famous for his work for equality, not only for the LGBT community, but the elderly and children as well. His famous quote, in reference to coming out and working to make the world better for those coming after him, “You gotta’ give them hope.” Was assassinated, along with the mayor of San Francisco.
Brought the supreme court case Boy Scouts of America v Dale in 2000, led to the BSA upholding their ban on LGBT scouts and leaders.
Brutally murdered in Wyoming. His mother created the Matthew Shepherd foundation and extension of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation and gender expression was the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. Act.
British scientist responsible for the modern computer age and cracked the Nazi enigma codes during WWII. Was convicted of being homosexual by the British government and sentenced to chemical castration. Committed suicide before the sentence could be carried out. He has yet to be pardoned by the British government.
First male athlete in the big four (football, baseball, basketball, hockey) to come out while still playing. Although has not been re-signed (free agent) for the 2013-2014 season.
First out state official in Pennsylvania, elected in 2012. Currently represents downtown Philadelphia.
I’m from Driftwood
Video series dedicated to the many unique stories of the LGBT community and our allies. (http://www.imfromdriftwood.com/)
It Gets Better Project
Founded by Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller to combat LGBT suicide. The idea is that because of the Internet (and YouTube specifically), we don’t need permission to talk with the kids that need our support the most. We can tell them that life does get better, and it’s worth sticking around for. (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/)
You Can Play
Founded in memory of Brendan Burke, out, gay player and manager for Miami of Ohio by his father (Maple Leafs former GM, Brian Burke) and brother (Flyers Scout, Patrick Burke), You Can Play has officially partnered with the NHL to tackle homophobia on the ice, in the locker room and in the stands. (http://youcanplayproject.org/)
Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for the LGBT community. (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/)
Human Rights Campaign
The main lobbying group of the LGBT community, working with local organizations and lobbying in Washington, D.C. for equal rights. Their symbol is the yellow equals sign on a blue field.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund and Out Serve merged after the repeal of DADT, they work to support LGBT members of the armed forces, veterans and their families.
The state-level organization working for equality in Pennsylvania. Reintroduced the state-level ENDA in 2013 with record support, over 100 co-sponsors in the house and senate.
Lambda Foundation/Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh
The Lambda Foundation is the local LGBT organization, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh is a spin-off organization that puts together Pittsburgh Pride.
National legal organization focusing on LGBT issues and fighting for those with HIV/AIDS
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, national organization of allies.
Previously the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, now just goes by GLAAD and also focuses on trans and bi issues as well, media watchdog for the LGBT community.
Pride is usually celebrated in June to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, although some locations move it around due to weather concerns. An open celebration (seriously, everyone is invited, including allies) of how far we’ve come, the fact that we’ve survived and enjoying the community that we’ve created for ourselves.