Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Are (almost) Equal Now

Hiding under the hundreds of bills Governor Schwarzenegger signed at the last days before his deadline was a simple and almost unremarkable bill written by California State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco).

Except nothing about that bill was simple or unremarkable to hundreds of thousands of people across the state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature on SB 1827 should be cause for celebration among Gays and Lesbians all over California. Short of actually providing same-sex marriage, the State of California can provide no more rights to domestic partners than it now has. This bill will provide same-sex couples in a registered domestic partnership with the same tax rates they would recieve if married. After decades of fighting for equality, California has come closer to granting Gay people the right to marry than it ever has before.

This doesn't mean the fight is (or should be) over. According to the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. General Accounting Office, there are still 1,049 benefits provided by the federal government that are only granted to married couples. None of these benefits are currently available to same-sex couples. Further, none of these benefits can be made available by the State of California. Certainly, we should expect the fight to continue inside the Beltway.

But this doesn't even mean that our fight is finished in California. While our government grants equal status between heterosexual married couples and gay domestic partners, the Gay community has not yet achieved equality.

I have had the benefit of spending my adult years in metropolitan areas with thriving Gay communities. Unfortunately, not all Gay and Lesbian people can live in big cities. Many live in areas where it is not acceptable or safe to live as an "out" Gay person. Despite anti-discrimination laws, many members of the GLBT community would find it difficult at best to secure a job, reasonable housing, and live a happy, free, and secure life if they allowed themselves to be labeled Queer.

Far worse, too many children are bullied each day because they are labeled Queer, either in reality or in perception. If any of us, Gay or Straight, look back on our days in middle school, we will remember just how intolerant kids can be. And how mean. But that isn't the worst of it. Adults can be just as intolerant toward Queer or effeminate children and cause an environment where a child is not free to live he or she was created by God.

While I was fortunate enough to have an amazingly accepting family that more than embraces my homosexuality (and helped teach me to do the same) I remember growing up in a town where it is not acceptable for a person to live out of the closet. Does that mean that there are no Gay people there? Absolutely Not! It just means that we need to keep up the fight for equality so that those closeted individuals might eventually be able to live freely.

No comments: