By Nikole Lambert
2013 has been a big year for advocates of same-sex marriage. According to a June 2013 Pew Research Center study, 93 percent of respondents support gay marriage, a statistic Executive Vice President Paul Taylor deemed “nearly universal.” That same study indicated that 92 percent of the population agrees that homosexuality is being more widely accepted in society, but 21 percent of LGBTQ adults feel they are treated unfairly in the workplace.
On June 26, the United States Supreme Court struck down one of the most controversial provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), requiring the Federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for purposes of Social Security payments, immigration, insurance benefits and taxes. Since then, 16 states have legalized gay marriage – and that number continues to climb. Within the last week, both Illinois and Hawaii voted to legalize same-sex unions. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, laws continue to change.
The Employer Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a law which has been presented to and rejected by nearly every Congress since 1994, was approved by the United States Senate on Nov. 7. The passage of this law would add sexual orientation to the list of Federal protections against discrimination. Though it was passed by the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to refuse to call a vote on the bill in an effort to stall its progress.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled Nov. 7 that countries with a legal alternative to marriage are required to offer that same option to same-sex couples. This has immediate consequences that can already be seen in Greece, whose government previously only allowed civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. The Greek government is also cracking down on anti-gay violence by increasing prison terms and fines.
Perhaps most importantly, the European Court of Justice decided on Nov. 7 that the threat of prosecution based on sexual orientation is considered grounds for political asylum. This does not pertain to those countries that simply reject gay marriage – only those that enforce prison sentences as a penalty for homosexuality. The judges’ verdict closed the bill to an obvious loophole by clarifying that sexual orientation is “so fundamental to a person’s identity that the persons concerned cannot be requested to renounce it.” This ruling is expected to have far-reaching consequences, as Belgium alone received more than 1,000 requests for this sort of protection in 2012.
These legal decisions reflect the views of a changing world, one that is finally becoming accepting of homosexuality. Hopefully within the coming years the world will continue on this long road toward equality. Everyone deserves the right to love.