Friday, December 5, 2014

We're not America Yet

Two hundred thirty-eight years ago, America was founded on the concept of liberty and equality. Of course, that was not strictly true because we still institutionalized slavery and women were treated as second-class citizens. But America is a work in progress. While we don’t have legal slavery today, we still have a long way to go toward equal rights for all races. While the Constitution was changed (less than 100 years ago) to guarantee women the right to vote, we still have a long way to go toward pay equality and a level playing field for women.

Over the past decade, a new rights struggle has taken center stage – equal rights for LGBT Americans. As reported in today’s New York Times, a group of Democratic legislators, along with LGBT activists, is working on a bill, akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to guarantee equal rights in all areas such as housing, insurance, marriage, employment, and other areas.

And why not? It’s a shame that the spirit of the Constitution has taken centuries to implement, and that we’re not done yet. And why now? As the Times article points out, “Any effort to create a new class of legally protected people … is likely to run into serious opposition from conservatives.” But the article points out that this legislation may take a decade or more to come to fruition. Social mores change. We now have marriage equality in a majority of states. Younger voters are more open to their LGBT peers. The entertainment industry is starting to portray LGBT Americans in roles that transcend their sexual orientation.

Four years ago, on this blog, I proposed a new Equal RightsAmendment that would guarantee equal rights for the LGBT community. Given the difficulty of even passing the original ERA, this new legislative solution is a better approach. Kudos to Senator Jeff Merkley, Representative David Cicilline, and others, as well as the thousands of activists who are pouring their hearts into this struggle.

Let’s not forget that the quest for equal rights for minority races and for women is not yet complete. But as we move forward, we also need to support equal rights for our LGBT fellow Americans.

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