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Jarryd Willis Headshot

Gaycists Lose at Supreme Court

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This morning, the Supreme Court extended civil rights to lesbian and gay couples by overturning Section 3 of DOMA (which defined marriage as male-female dyads for federal purposes), and (basically) overturning Proposition 8. While this is a historic victory for the civil rights movement, the court's ruling was a narrow one, as it left Section 2 of DOMA in place (which allows states to deny recognition of same-sex marriages from other states). This means that if a woman and her wife marry in New York, their marriage may still not be recognized federally in the state of Texas. (Jim Lopata has more on this particular point.)

It's also important to note that these cases did not address all forms of institutional discrimination and daily minority stressors that LGBT encounter. LGBT face two kinds of discrimination: Structural and Interpersonal (referred to in scientific literature as micro-aggressions). Rights affected by institutional discrimination include: the right to marry (37 state same-sex marriage bans), adoption, foster care, visitation rights, employment discrimination, housing, the criminal justice system, being on a partner's health care plan, social security benefits, veterans benefits, and having your marriage recognized across state lines. It is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being LGBT (or even if the employer thinks they are LGBT). Prior to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," more than 13,000 American soldiers were discharged from the military because it was discovered that they were not straight. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000) a scoutmaster was fired from the Boy Scouts because it was discovered that he was gay. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) is an example of how a gay couple was nearly criminalized because they were caught having sex in their own apartment.

The issue of adoption is a particularly troubling one, and some states have cleverly crafted 2nd generation barriers to adoption while not explicitly banning it (I say second generation because, like the new voter suppression laws, they are subtle in their intent). For example, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Utah deny adoption rights to unmarried couples, which indirectly prohibits LGBT couples from adopting because those states deny them the 1,138 marriage rights granted to heterosexual couples. These are purely discriminatory statutes as research has reported any concerns regarding straight kids growing up with two moms or two dads to be unfounded. Indeed, in my own LGBT research I have argued that social scientists may have been studying the wrong pair of parents...

While research has not supported the fears of what may happen to a straight kid raised by LGBT parents, a plethora of research has documented the negative outcomes for LGBT kids being raised by unaccepting straight parents.

LG individuals who come out are often met with rejection, assault, and punishment such as being kicked out of home or cut off financially (Fassinger, 1991; Radowsky & Siegel, 1997; Ray, 2006; Remafedi, 1987, Weston, 1991). In fact, an estimated 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT who were abandoned by their parents. As the American Psychological Association (2004) has affirmed, "Demands for children to embody heterosexuality or demonstrate only gender behavior that conforms to familiar norms are inappropriate and unwarranted."

This leads to the Interpersonal discrimination that LGBT experience. Like some of my LGBT friends, I have kept a relationship in "the interracial closet" out of concern of the consequences of coming out as an interracial couple (if you're unsure about what the concern might be, look up the controversy surrounding the 2013 Cheerios Cereal ad with an interracial family). The difference between my experience and that of my LGBT friends is that my concern is only in the context of familial acceptance. I don't, however, have to worry about whether I should hold my girlfriend's hand when going out for dinner and a movie.

The more visible LGBT are, the more likely they are to be victims of homophobia (Meyer, 1995). Gay men are continually bullied in childhood, and adolescent lesbians are 97 percent more likely to experience stress than their heterosexual counterparts (Saghir & Robins, 1973; Koh & Ross, 2006). LGBT individuals who have come out report 1.45 times more verbal harassment and 1.73 times more acts of discrimination (Huebner, Rebchook, & Kegeles, 2004). Lesbian and gay couples may be assailed for engaging in basic romantic attachment behaviors (e.g., kissing, hugging, holding hands) in public (Herek, 1991).

Gaycism is arguably more appropriate terminology than homophobia for the variety of micro-aggressions that LGBT encounter. Phobia suggests fear, but many individuals rationalize their appraisal of LGBT individuals under the guise of religion, tradition, or some other moral foundation. Thus, they feel justified in their hatred of LGBT without necessarily fearing them. Thankfully, SCOTUS (per Kennedy's opinion) recognized the blatant discrimination in DOMA, which served to reinforce the gaycism LGBT experience on a interpersonal level, and bent the arc of the United States a little closer towards justice.

Of course, there are still the aforementioned civil rights issues that must still be addressed, as well as a new one to consider. It will be particularly important for researchers to investigate how these newly recognized dyads are treated by federal and social service organizations. Will they be treated the same way as heterosexual couples or will new challenges arise for them? Indeed, the interpersonal discrimination experienced as a gay individual cannot be separated from that experienced as a gay couple (for interracial couple, however, only one spouse may experience interpersonal discrimination). This means work remains for the LGBT community, allies and social scientists... but let's celebrate tonight!