Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
B.J. Epstein

GET UPDATES FROM B.J. Epstein
 

Go Gay in the US of A!

Posted: 08/11/2012 12:50

What a gay election in the US this week!

The election was historical and important in many ways, but one of the biggest was in regard to rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

As has been noted in the news, Maine, Washington and Maryland voted to approve same-sex marriage, while Minnesota struck down a proposed ban on it. Now nine states out of 50 plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. President Barack Obama is the first sitting president to speak up in favour of this in the US.

Besides that, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin was elected as the first openly gay senator.

The United States, in other words, proved this week that sexual orientation shouldn't and doesn't matter when it comes to what jobs people have, how they are viewed or treated, or what rights they have. For a country widely perceived as fairly conservative by many Europeans as well as by people in other nations, this was a hugely vital step.

It also send a message that the US is becoming a safer more accepting country for all people. Imagine being a young queer person in the US today, knowing that society is shifting, and that more and more people believe in you and want the best for you. What an amazing, uplifting feeling such a person must experience.

But clearly, things aren't perfect yet. Human Rights Campaign head Chad Griffin points out in a video how wonderful these victories are, but rightfully says there is still much to do. "We don't slow down, we double down," he says.

Indeed. What about the other 82% of the states? When will they approve equal rights for all? When will the Senate and the House of Representatives - along with other political offices, and of course other jobs in general - have a number of openly LGBT employees that reflects the percentage of LGBT people in the population?

When might we have an LGBT president?

So we have to keep working, keep fighting. But obviously it's not just LGBT people alone who are doing this: straight allies play a huge role in the fight.

Writer Dan Savage says that LGBT Americans shouldn't thank straight Americans for giving them rights, but definitely should thank them for their support and for helping them to get the rights they deserve. As he put it, "Not, 'Oh, gee, straight people, thank you so much for the civil rights.' Rights are rights. We shouldn't have to beg for them. We shouldn't have to say "thank you" when they're recognised. We shouldn't even have to ask for them. But the sad fact is that we have had to fight for our rights. And the happy fact? We didn't have to fight this one alone. We had help. Thousands of straight people stood with us and fought for us. That's what we should thank the straight people for. Not for the rights - rights are rights are rights - but the way they joined our fight."

He's absolutely correct; since LGBT people are such a small percentage of the population, they could not have implemented these changes on their own, without the help of all the straight allies. Thank you so much to all the people - LGBT and otherwise - who helped make this happen.

And let's keep going. There are still many other states to conquer, laws to put in place, attitudes and minds to change. But first let's take a moment to celebrate the gayest election we've seen in the US.

 

Follow B.J. Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bjepstein

FOLLOW UK POLITICS