I’ve more or less finished Stonewall (rereading some bits; I decided that my new quest to read a lot should include the pile of books I bought for a seminar last spring and didn’t end up reading because the class in question was so lame) and probably won’t be reading the final bits, since I’m not all that interested in a catalogue of various GLBT activisty groups. The narrative structure of the earlier chapters is great and very readable, and I appreciate that Duberman at least attempts to acknowledge differing viewpoints of what really sparked the Stonewall riots.
That said, I just learned that Larry Kramer (most recently author of The Tragedy of Today’s Gays) will be speaking nearby in a couple of weeks. Loyal readers may remember that Kramer got me all fired up this summer for a time, and the ideas his book germinated are still growing (very, very slowly) in my brain, even if I haven’t put them to paper yet. As I was thinking about the possibility that the lottery for tickets will end in my favor, I pondered the kinds of questions I might ask (provided he even has a question and answer period). My first inclination would be to find out his opinion on the whole marriage issue.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m disgruntled with the current emphasis on marriage rights among LGBT activist groups (particularly the larger, more visible ones, like HRC) . Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that I live in the one state in the union that currently legally recognizes same-sex marriages. I recognize that a lot of the rights associated with legal marriage are important ones, and I would never argue that LGBT individuals shouldn’t enjoy those rights should they choose to marry. My problem, rather, is with the attention (and time, and money) the issue receives at the expense of other important issues.
I know that this may sound like the ol’ “Why can’t you focus on the important issues?” argument I so despise, but it’s not; I don’t think people should stop fighting for marriage equality. I even hesitate to hierarchize the issues at all–who am I to say that workplace rights are more important than marriage rights? I’d just really like to see other LGBT issues getting the same kind of national attention that same sex marriage has enjoyed (although, given the results of the 2004 elections, it’s hard to say if “enjoyed” is really an appropriate word).
Consider some words from LAMBDA Legal:
There is no federal law that expressly forbids workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Less than half of all states specifically ban workplace discrimination in the private sector based on sexual orientation. Only a handful of states ban discrimination based on gender identity, but many courts have held that transgender employees are protected under sex discrimination laws.
About half of all states permit second-parent adoptions by the unmarried partner of an existing legal parent, while in a handful of states courts have ruled these adoptions not permissible under state laws. This leaves parents in many states legally unrecognized or severely disadvantaged in court fights with ex-spouses, ex-partners or other relatives.
And let’s not forget the (lack of) transgender rights:
There is no federal law explicitly prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, public accommodations or any other area of law, although many courts have held that transgender employees are protected under sex discrimination laws. Only a handful of states have laws specifically prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.
Yet in 2004, when much of the nation was once again glued to television sets watching the returns come in, we weren’t eagerly awaiting the results of workplace discrimination laws, same-sex adoption laws, or transgender discrimination laws in 11 states. I’ll be willing to bet money the case will be the same in 2008.