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delfin bautista

Op-Ed: Same-sex marriage isn't the end it's just the beginning for the fight of equality

Last week’s historic decision from the United States Court of Appeals affirming the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples was exciting; it reflects the growing shift in public opinion in support of equality for all families.

Last week’s historic decision from the United States Court of Appeals affirming the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples was exciting; it reflects the growing shift in public opinion in support of equality for all families. The ground-breaking decision follows the momentum created by the Supreme Court’s decisions in March 2013 regarding Proposition 8 in California and the repeal of the third section of the Defense of Marriage Act. For me, part of the excitement of this decision is not necessarily the ruling itself but the rallies across the country of folks from different backgrounds gathered in solidarity for justice, equality, and the celebration of all relationships.

Though the court’s ruling is one of hope, it  does not mark the end of advocacy for equal right, as there is still much work to be done. Even if this decision leads to changes in the law across the country, there is much work to be done in rippling what’s on paper into people’s hearts.

Marriage Equality is not the end-goal, but just a spot for us to freshen up as we continue to fight for equality within all aspects of society. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words take on a special significance at this time: “the arc of history is long and it bends toward justice… we just ain’t finished ’til everyone can proclaim free at last!”

The War of Independence, the passing of the Women’s Rights Amendments, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the arrests at Stonewall, the life of Harvey Milk, the airing of shows like Modern Family and Orange is the New Black, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; these moments did not signal the end, but marked victories and the re-energizing of our “oomph” to continue living in solidarity with the marginalized and to continue challenging unjust systems — essentially to embody “to be continued.”

How the court’s decision will impact Ohio is not yet clear. For many advocates, our fingers are crossed that the decision will serve as a precedent and push for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in favor of marriage equality as it continues to review cases seeking the freedom and right to marry (four of the six cases before the Court of Appeals are from Ohio). Regardless of the outcome, we still have to continue the struggle for women’s equality; create sanctuary for immigrants through comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform; ensure that our earth is protected from misappropriation and careless destruction; guarantee access to quality healthcare and education for all people, especially for those on the margins of the economy; undo systems that oppress and re-victimize survivors of sexualized violence; recreate narratives in support of all who live beyond or between binary understandings of gender through inclusive non-discrimination policies and anti-violence initiatives — continue to make sure that laws which liberate on paper truly liberate in life.

This moment of celebrating the United States Court of Appeal’s decision is a time to recuperate energies, to take a breather, to wash the grime from our faces, to touch up our makeup, iron out any wrinkles in our clothing, relook and tweak strategies, and mend and repaint our signs. It is also a moment to reflect that marriage equality is not the only issue that matters to the LGBTQ community here in the United States. Though it’s exciting to see the number of states with marriage equality laws or policies go from 19 to potentially 30, including the District of Columbia, it is important to recognize that marriage equality is not the only issue that defines or matters to our community. In addition to marriage equality, we are also advocating for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act at the federal level as well as the Equal Housing and Employment Act here in Ohio, which would protect sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations. This marriage equality victory is exciting, however, there is still much work to be done so that all are equal truly means all are equal.

Delfin Bautista is the director of Ohio University’s LGBT Center.

 

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