LGBT Battle for Equality Goes Beyond the Altar

Stan Sarkisov

Almost fifty years after the first same-sex couple was denied a marriage license in California, last year Obergefell v. Hodges codified a fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex.  But Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people want to do more than get married.  LGBT people—especially those on the T end of the rainbow—remain the target of employment discrimination, eviction, bullying, violence, and disparity in healthcare access.

As we celebrate Pride Month this June, we are reminded that we are still on the path towards equality.  “Despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are,” President Obama cautioned in his recent Presidential Proclamation.

Domestically, the first legislative session after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry, at least 105 ‘religious freedom’ bills were introduced.  Today, the majority of states do not have any public accommodation non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people from being unfairly refused service or entry to places accessible to the public—the majority of LGBT Americans still live in jurisdictions where they can be fired, denied housing, or refused services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  “State-sanctioned discrimination” is not over, Attorney General Loretta Lynch has reminded us.  Currently, 11 states are suing to prevent children from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity, and trans women (particularly of color) are murdered at strikingly disproportionate levels.  Internationally, being gay is punishable by death in some countries, and illegal in over 70 others.  While societal acceptance of LGBT people is increasing, non-heteronormative public display is still met with violence, even in San Francisco.

Supporting LGBT organizations and causes must remain a priority—there is still work to be done.  BALIF (Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom) has been supporting LGBT people in the legal professional since 1980.  For more than 30 years, BALIF has also been filing amicus briefs in support of LGBT issues: decriminalizing sodomy between consenting adults, healthcare benefits, classify HIV/AIDS as a protected disability, challenging Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and of course, the freedom to love.  That is one of the reasons I joined BALIF.

When thousands march to commemorate milestone and victories this month, remember that the first gay pride event was a riot.  There are still many court victories ahead before we are all truly equal, and it’s going to take LGBT (and of course straight) attorneys to continue to fight from Christopher Street and into the courtroom.

StanAbout the author: 

Stan Sarkisov is a San Francisco-based family law sole practitioner, and the communications chair for BALIF—the nation’s largest and oldest LGBT Bar Association.