A court decision by the United States Supreme Court on 26th June ,albeit by the narrowest of margins,ruled that same sex marriage should be a legal right in all 50 states. The news was greeted ecstatically by LGBT campaigners as is shown
This decision was the first ruling by the Supreme Court on marriage since 1967 when it declared it unconstitutional for any of the states to make inter-racial marriage illegal.
In both cases individuals had brought their quest for justice to the court.
In welcoming the decision President Obama praised the vital part that had been played by individuals and small groups in advancing LGBT equality.
He acknowledged the long road to equality and recocgnized “the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up ,who came out, who came out to parents,who endured bullying and taunts and stayed strong and came to believe in themselves and who they are.’
Seldom has the recognition of the contribution made—often at huge-personal sacrifice-by LGBT activists towards achieving greater equality been better stated.
And what is true of the USA is equally true of the UK. We too have our unsung heroes and victims without whom no advance would have been made.
But their task is not yet over. Even if LGBT people had complete legal equality in the USA and elsewhere that has not been translated into actual equality i peoples everyday lives. The parallel with the positions of Afro-Americans who have had legal equality in the US for the last 50 years yet as recent events have shown they sometimes still seem to be as far away from translating legal equality into actual equality as ever is striking if not encouraging. The hatred and fear in peoples hearts lives on.
In the USA there is neither total legal nor real equality for LGBT people. For example the evil quackery of conversion therapy continues to be legal in the vast majority of states. Legalised torture continues. Young people in particular are driven to seek a ‘cure’ for their homosexuality out of desperation at the hostility they face—often from their own families.However,this week also brought another decision in a US Court which may in the longterm be as much a landmark victory in promoting LGBT Rights as the Supreme Court Ruling. This was the finding of the court in New Jersey that Conversion Therapy Organisation J.O.N.A.H. had been guilty of fraud in promising a cure for homosexuality. Again a case had been brought by individuals who had suffered at the hands of JONAH. They were awarded damages of $72,000.Their Attorney,David Dinielli said “The same lies that motivate gay conversion therapy motivate homophobia,that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. The strength of our plaintiffs brought that to light”.Obamas theme again. At the time of writing the judge in the case has not yet made a decision on whether to withdraw JONAH’s licence to operate. Conversion Therapy in the USA is not only driven by religious homophobia but also a desire to make a quick buck. So hitting the quacks in the pocket could be a very effective means of battling conversion therapy.In the UK ,although the campaign led by Hull and East Riding Labour LGBT+ Network succeeded in patients no longer being funded by the NHS for such treatment, the battle has still to be won to achieve an outright ban.
An indication of the extent of continuing LGBT inequality in the USA [and indeed the UK] lies in the statistic that in the USA 40% of homeless youth declare themselves to be LGBT. Many of them have fled their family homes because of rejection,hostility and even abuse. Others are rejected and thrown out. All these things fuel the number seeking [or being forced to] conversion therapy in desperation.Whilst homeless they will be in great danger, of sexual exploitation and other crimes,, engaging in risky sex [often to survive]. of drug use and impaired mental health.
As so often the prejudices of society create more problems and more victims and society fails to solve the problems it has created in the first place.In Britain the problem is barely recognised-let alone dealt with-on an official level.
But let us rejoice with our American sisters and brothers at this great move towards equality. A ‘victory for love’ indeed—–but all those individual sacrifices and acts of courage which made it possible will be needed for a long while yet. And of course in many countries that will place not only their wellbeing but their very lives at risk
Celebrate and Agitate!
Colin Livett 28/6/2015