I cried a few times this weekend as I thought of my friends in the United States as they celebrate an historic ruling by the Supreme Court in favour of marriage equality nationwide. All 50 states now have marriage equality including bastions of right wing intolerance such as Texas, Georgia and Alabama.
Gays can get married in Alabama. When I came out seven years ago I never thought that sentence would ever pass my lips. But too many people are considering this THE victory of the LGBT rights movement that started back in the 1960s and 70s with Harvey Milk and the Stonewall Riots.
Yes all 50 states now have marriage equality but we are a long way from the end of the road, folks. We cannot forget for a moment that in all 50 states it is still illegal for gay and bisexual men to donate blood or that in countries like Iran, Sudan and Yemen you can be put to death for being gay.
In Uganda, Russia, Jamaica and other nations it is illegal to 'promote' homosexuality and imprisonment for that crime is widespread. Kyrgysztan is making moves to criminalise gay propaganda also. In India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and most of Northern Africa it is illegal to be gay and in many nations such as the Balkan states and the Caucuses governments actively clamp down on freedom of assembly and expression by LGBT groups.
Same sex marriage is still not a reality in developed Western leaning nations such as Germany, Poland, Italy, Greece, Australia, Japan and my own country of Northern Ireland although there are now two legal challenges to that ban going ahead as of Friday. In fact many European states such as Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine are years behind acknowledging any kind of legal recognition of same sex relationships and many still have next to no legal protection from discrimination for LGBT people. Same sex marriage is banned in 12 out of 56 nations. 13 European states do not allow LGBT people to openly serve in the military, and only 19 allow gay couples to adopt.
Whilst all 50 US States now allow same sex marriage there were over 85 anti-LGBT Bills introduced in State legislatures as of March this year. The notorious Anti-Gay religious freedom Bills were written into law in both Indiana and Arkansas and similar legislation is pending in Montana, Georgia, Missouri and Texas. 28 states still offer no discrimination protection for LGBT people when it comes to housing, 17 offer no hate crime protection for LGBT people and 18 offer no discrimination protection in employment.
Yes Friday is a good day to be gay and a good day for the American people but we cannot forget that we have a long way to go. Let's take this victory and carry on with a renewed vigour to make the rest of the world better too. I have no doubt in my mind that the progression of LGBT rights in the EU will become even more rapid now that the USA has marriage equality but we can't take our foot off the pedal any time soon.