Print Edition: July 15, 2015
On Friday, June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in a five-to-four vote, that same-sex marriage was allowed across the country. In a display of solidarity with the ruling, the colours of the pride flag were projected onto the White House.
“When all Americans are truly treated as equal, we are more free,” stated President Obama after the ruling was declared.
Indeed, the decision ought to be celebrated as a victory for those who have pursued the freedom of same-sex marriage in America for years. Being allowed to partake in a ceremony that, for some, marks the progress from lovers to family implies that gay couples are now allowed to start a family.
But how much “more free” are gay citizens after such a ruling?
They’re freer, in a legal sense, as they’re allowed to do a thing they couldn’t do before, but they aren’t at all free from other forms of oppression. Despite the ruling, and the victory speeches that followed, being freer does not mean being free from hate crimes, which disproportionately affect those who stray from the mainstream of sexual orientation. Nor does it liberate them from social and familial rejection upon coming out. And these issues are further complicated and added to if you’re intersex or transgender, and not white.
Furthermore, if the squeaked-by Supreme Court decision at all represents broader social acceptance, then the opposition for same-sex marriage is still unsettlingly large.
In Abbotsford, opposition is fierce, and pushback follows any gesture towards acceptance. The recent decision to fly the pride flag at City Hall incited a call to fly the pro-life flag, the Straight is Great flag (among a few others), as well as a letter to the Abby News that equates the decision to condoning “sexual immorality.”
Of course, one can argue that when it comes to gay rights, progress is progress. Canada has quite progressive LGBTIQ+ laws, but they’re far from total equality, and the kernel of rejection — the thing that drives a writer to call a key tenet of one’s lifestyle “immoral” — remains intact. And embarrassments like the homosexuality scare of the ’50s and ’60s have yet to draw from the government a public apology.
The scare — stemmed by the belief that gay people had less mental fortitude than their straight coworkers, and could more easily become communists — featured the usage of what they called a “fruit machine”: a device intended to detect homosexuality by monitoring viewers’ responses to pornography. Convicted homosexuals would be fined, or even sent to jail.
LGBTIQ+ issues are not immediately resolved at the bang of a gavel, nor at the raising of a flag. There are vestiges of old feelings that hold back true equality: there’s the pain of the past, and the convictions of those whose belief systems don’t hold people as equal on the basis of orientation. Equality still beckons from afar, and we’re not there yet, no matter how many rainbow-coloured Facebook photos there are.