On DOMA, Prop 8, and the Voting Rights Amendment

Law and politics have always intrigued me. When I was 8, I wanted to be a lawyer and a politician. I devoured any book about politics or legal matters that I could. I loved reading about Thomas Jefferson especially. His take on American Politics in the early days was something with which I enthusiastically agreed. It’s the whole, “I am a farm girl at heart,” and he was always talking about embracing the farmers as the backbone of society. Jefferson embraced rural middle and poor people more than many of the earlier presidents and set the tone for the modern-day Democratic Party.

By the time I reached high school, I had become a legal wonk who read court cases for fun. I had my own copy of the Federalist Papers by ninth grade. Weirdly, I was a fairly conservative Republican, so being interested in freedom seems ironic, doesn’t it? I took a class in high school that taught a lot about legal briefs because it was a forensics class and briefing was part of the curriculum. This is how I discovered a lot more about freedom of speech and assembly, among other liberties. It inspired me to want to be a Constitutional lawyer. By college, I continued to take pre-law classes mixed in with my political science classes, but alas, I never did apply for law school. I still followed cases closely and was always waxing philosophical about certain judges and how terrible they are. Mostly Scalia, because that guy is a tool.

Fast forward to this past week and I get to put my legal wonking skills to good use. It has been an interesting term for the Supreme Court, one that I watched very closely. I had a lot at stake in United States vs Windsor and my friends in California had a lot at stake in Hollingsworth vs Perry. With section 3 of DOMA being struck down in Windsor, my future marriage will be able to have most federal benefits, if not all, due to my residing in a marriage equality state. My friend Bryce can now get a marriage license in California as opposed to having to fly to Seattle. But for someone reason, I cannot bring myself complete happiness in these cases because of marriage not being the end-all and be-all of the LGBT rights movement.

Something I have struggled with is fighting for middle to upper class, usually white cisgender queer people wanting to assimilate. As someone who is not cisgender and not necessarily assimilative, it is a hard pill to swallow when I know a lot of gay people think their rights are now close to equal. I realize 37 states do not have marriage equality, but at least under Windsor, those living in marriage equality states will be able to get federal recognition for their marriage. Places like Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, NYC, and Des Moines are about to get marriage booms of all the gays flying in to get married.

What still disturbs me is the lack of a federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and how a lot of people in safe LGBT-friendly communities forget about that. They have cushy jobs where they can be out and do not feel like they would lose their job for being gay. In 29 states, you can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans*, and I think they forget that. What’s worse is that in some states, sexual orientation is a protected class but gender identity is not a protected class in 34 states. That means that trans* people can be discriminated against in housing, public services, and employment. It is no wonder that trans* people tend to be underemployed or unemployed and homeless more than the average American. I hope that LGBT organizations can now focus on making sure queer people of all stripes can be protected on a federal level.

The other annoying thing was the lack of anger by a lot of queer people when the Voting Rights Amendment was pulled apart by SCOTUS. It felt as if marriage was the only thing that mattered. Disenfranchising thousands of poor people, mostly of color, will severely affect our democracy. This country is supposed to be the land of the free; instead, it’s the land of the rich white man holding everyone down. Voter ID laws are created to make sure immigrants, people of color, poor people, people with disabilities and the elderly have a harder time voting because, duh, they vote mostly Democratic/Progressive. This will also disenfranchise any trans* person with an ID that does not necessarily match their outer presentation. The states that pass these draconian voter laws are the least likely to have pro-LGBT legislators and any protections for LGBT people. Queer people are more likely to be in poverty in these states. This is why I am frustrated by the lack of anger from a lot of the queer community to the gutting of the VRA.

As a society, we need a concerted effort to help everyone, not just whatever community we are a part of. We need to see the intersectionality of classism, racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, and transphobia, and how we can fight all injustice at once.

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Alyson

Queer Pop Culture Junkie in the Northwest. Addicted to Coffee, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fantasy Sports, The Mountain Goats, and Tottenham Hotspur.

6 thoughts on “On DOMA, Prop 8, and the Voting Rights Amendment”

  1. I’m a bit on the fence about this.

    There is cause to celebrate. And people who don’t peek beneath the surface will take it to go all out and say that the USA is finally stepping up their game.
    It also shows how much is still lacking. But does that mean we shouldn’t acknowledge what has been changed (for how lang it lasts, of course)?

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