Federal judge strikes down utah ban on same-sex marriage.
As a self-identified queer woman of color living in Utah, I recall reading this headline for the first time on my work computer, and immediately jumping from my chair and announcing it to my coworker in the cubicle adjacent to me. I was overwhelmed with feelings of joy, excitement and disbelief that Utah — widely considered one of the most conservative states in the country — was now one of the 18 states to rule in favor of same-sex marriage.
While a few days have passed since the ruling, with many jubilant same-sex couples from around the state triumphantly obtaining marriage licenses, I am beginning to question whether same-sex marriage truly means "equality" for the LGBTQ community.
Having the ability to marry the one you love should be considered a fundamental right. Now that LGBTQ couples can legally marry, this does not mean that queer Utahns are considered "equal" to their heterosexual neighbors. Yes, the gay community obtained the "golden trophy" in the form of legalization of same-sex marriage for all, but homophobia and blatant prejudice in the state of Utah is nevertheless alive and well.
This was evident by the way the governor, Gary Herbert, erroneously described the ruling by Judge Robert J. Shelby as creating a "chaotic" situation in the state; by the way certain county officials refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after Judge Shelby’s ruling, despite it being illegal to do so; and by countless dissenting and hateful comments and editorials written in local news publications.
Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign expend tremendous resources raising millions of dollars in donations annually with the goal of furthering same-sex marriage. This incites the question: What kind of community would we have in this day and age if instead of spending money on same-sex marriage campaigns, we spent that money raising awareness of LGBTQ issues amongst schools and workplaces around the U.S.?
Homophobia would be significantly less common than it currently is today, especially in Utah, and if we had focused on addressing the causes of homophobia, it would have only been a matter of time before gay marriage would be legally recognized. Then, we would have killed two birds with one stone: eliminating homophobia while having marriage equality.
Instead, Utah is getting "gay marriage," which mainly serves the needs of the privileged — mostly white, cisgender gays — but we are still left with the insidiousness of homophobia (both external and internal). The general population in this state is still pretty much unaware of how homophobia works, what its causes are, and how to abolish it.
Equality should not only be about marriage. The fight for equality should also include eliminating prejudice and discrimination — both outside and within the LGBTQ community — economic equality and health care for the transgender communities, providing stable homes for queer homeless youth, as well as creating community and a sense of belonging for queer women, queer people of color, queer people with disabilities, Muslim queers, Jewish queers, and queer immigrants.
We cannot forget that these issues are just as important (if not more) and need all the attention and enthusiasm that same-sex marriage has received. Once we’ve successfully tackled these issues as a community can we truly proclaim we have "equality."
Kathleen B. Boyd is an investment strategist for Wells Fargo Private Bank in Salt Lake City.
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