Ding-dong, DOMA is dead! Let there be much rejoicing.
As we break out the champagne and cupcakes, though, it’s important to recognize how overturning the federal “one man-one woman” definition of marriage is not the end point for making America a more equal union. There are plenty of people left out of this decision, which may be overlooked in today’s victory.
Perhaps no one knows this more personally than Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, a Florida-based organizer for national LGBT rights group GetEQUAL. Sousa-Rodriguez is an undocumented immigrant who is now in the country on a two-year work visa, but today the federal government finally recognized his Massachusetts marriage to his husband Juan. When the paperwork for their federal marriage rights materialize, the couple can start planning their lives without the looming and immediate fear of deportation.
“But marriage itself is only one thing we need to worry about,” said Sousa-Rodriguez by phone this afternoon. “We can still get fired in most states.”
Employment discrimination is just one issue on a long list of work that still needs to be done to make LGBT Americans truly equal citizens.
First off, it’s important to note that there are plenty of problems with marriage. But the repeal of DOMA is a long-belated step toward equality and logistically essential for gaining equal rights for LGBT Americans. Today’s repeal immediately grants 1,138 federal rights to queer folks who were already legally married in one of the 13 states that now allow same-sex marriage.
Anyone who lives in the 31 states that have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage will still have to fight to change their state law at the ballot box. This fall, Oregon may become the first state to repeal a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a statewide vote—even in a blue state, repealing a constitutional amendment is an uphill battle.
This map of states passing constitutional bans on same-sex marriage reminds us of all the work to be done:
Until marriage is legal for LGBT couples in all states, they’ll continue to be denied state marriage rights, like many rights relating to adoptions and taxes.
Though discrimination at the altar is under the national spotlight, there have been far fewer headlines about how it’s legal in the majority of states to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexuality or gender identity. It’s illegal to fire someone or refuse to hire them because their their race, gender, or religion. But federal employment law doesn’t protect LGBT folks from discrimination. In 29 states, there’s no law banning employment discrimination against LGBT people. That needs to change.
“There are 267,000 undocumented LGBT people in this country. We need immigration reform right now,” says Sousa-Rodriguez. His organization, GetEQUAL, is backing the immigration reform bill currently in Congress, but is unhappy with how the bill links creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with an expensive militarization of the border.
And it’s hard to celebrate the expansion of civil rights for LGBT folks when the voting rights of Americans across the country are now in danger thanks to the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act yesterday. Even as millions of people spent this morning cheering the decision on DOMA, six states were rolling out voter ID laws that will discriminate against black and Latino Americans.
Clearly, protecting our civil rights in this country requires constant vigilance. We’ve got to Harry Potter this shit.
Let’s eat our delicious cake today and recognize the work that millions of Americans have put in to getting us this far. And then let’s get back to work.