By Emily McGranachan, Member of Amnesty International USA’s LGBT Human Rights Coordinating Group
Today the Supreme Court of the United States began hearing arguments on two pivotal cases involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. The focus of today’s hearing was on California’s Proposition 8, which wrote discrimination into the California Constitution by defining marriage in the state as between one man and one woman. The state constitutional amendment has been found unconstitutional by a federal appeals courts and supporters of marriage equality hope it will be struck down entirely.
Tomorrow the court hears arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits federal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples. There is a great deal in the news about both cases and what they could mean for LGBT rights. The decisions made by the Supreme Court will have real impacts on individuals, children, and families, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Federal and state recognition is more than just about the civil right to marry, it is about human rights. Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of human rights, without exception. This includes marriage.
It comes down to more than just a marriage license on paper. The denial of equal civil recognition of same-sex relationships prevents many people from accessing a range of other rights, such as rights to housing and health care, and stigmatizes those relationships in ways that can fuel discrimination and other human rights abuses against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Without equality, certain people are more likely to be viewed as “less than” others, opening doors to further discrimination.
Around the world other countries, like the UK and France, are also discussing, debating, and arguing over marriage equality. Support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality has grown dramatically in the U.S. and elsewhere in the last decade. Today polls indicate that over 58% of people in the U.S. support marriage equality, this is a huge increase from 37% in support ten years ago. The number jumps for people 18-19 years old to a remarkable 81% supporting marriage equality.
Every day in the U.S. and across the globe, sexual orientation or gender identity leads to abuse in the form of discrimination, violence, and imprisonment. Persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity can take a variety of forms and go against the basic tenets of international human rights law and norms. Love is a (human) right, not a wrong and protecting the rights of same-sex couples in the U.S. is a step towards recognizing that fact.
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