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The LGBTQ community has a long fight ahead, and marriage equality isn't the focus

Queer & There

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Earlier this month, my wife and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary, something we had long been told we would never be able to do. On June 26, we will acknowledge another important date — two years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that ensured couples like Caity and I could prove our commitment to each other in the eyes of the law.

Since Donald Trump's election, many same-sex couples have expressed concern that our unions are in jeopardy. It's easy to see why. Not only has Trump himself indicated that at worst he may not support it and at best he doesn't care, but Vice President Mike Pence remains unapologetically anti-LGBTQ. Plus we have a Republican majority in the U.S. House and Senate to contend with. Which is not to say all Republicans stand against marriage equality, but pro-LGBTQ legislation typically has less success with Republican lawmakers.

But the fact is, it would take a great deal of time and deliberation to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that is still new, and supported by a growing majority of Americans (64 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll). Sure, opponents could try to amend the Constitution, but that requires unlikely support from three quarters of state legislatures. Barring that, the Supreme Court itself is the only government body able to overturn previous decisions, and even then they have to hear a similar case first. I doubt they want to revisit an issue they resolved just two years ago.

No, our worry that marriage equality will be revoked speaks to a greater problem within the LGBTQ community. Marriage equality was our banner issue, something that could carry us into the public eye with controversy stemming largely from unfounded religious opposition. But the causes we should worry about now are messier, more complicated, intersecting with issues that aren't solely "LGBTQ issues," and the fact that we worry about our marriage — when so much else is at stake — says a great deal.

Namely, that the people who are truly in danger of losing their rights or suffering from active discrimination aren't the privileged white gay people like myself. They're the LGBTQ people of color, gender-nonconforming people, people with disabilities and people living below the poverty line, and we have always been reluctant to advocate for them, just as we have been reluctant to advocate for other marginalized communities. So as we celebrate the anniversary of this monumental ruling, we also need to shift our focus to the next fight, and there are plenty of fights to choose from.

With horror stories coming out of Chechnya, where gay men are allegedly being detained and tortured, and with anti-LGBTQ laws in African countries like Uganda (a fire lit by American missionaries, by the way), we need to think about immigration and the LGBTQ immigrants who might come to the U.S. only to be turned back to countries with governments that can legally kill them for their sexuality or gender identity.

With protections revoked for transgender students, who now no longer have federal support to use the appropriate bathroom, we need to think about the message of permission that political action sends to non-LGBTQ students when (according to a recent study by RTI International that analyzed 20 years of data) victimization of LGBTQ youth is becoming more prevalent.

With the acceptability of transgender military members in contention — an issue that hit close to home when a graduating Air Force Academy cadet was denied their commission based on their identity — we need to keep an eye on the Department of Defense's upcoming decision and policy revision, and advocate for the rights of transgender cadets.

Also, with at least 22 transgender U.S. citizens murdered in 2016 (according to the Human Rights Campaign), the majority trans women of color, and at least 13 more already this year, we must address this systematic violence, starting by acknowledging it exists. These murders aren't coincidences; they're a symptom of a culture of hate that we are all responsible for changing.

As someone who advocated for marriage equality and blessedly benefited from its legality, I will never devalue the massive accomplishment that it represents. But we need to educate ourselves about issues related to class, health care, race, ability and immigration status.

Our marriages will remain, but the members of our population who suffer most under discriminatory laws may not.

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