The week of June 26 saw people dancing and waving rainbow flags in streets across America, celebrating a win for the rights of homosexual people.
The United States Supreme Court made a five to four ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states — a historically significant move that Canada made 10 years ago.
After decades of fighting for this right, the LGBTQ+ community gained a victory under the 14th amendment that affords equal protection for all citizens under the law. The court ruled that it would be a violation of this amendment to deny them of the right to marriage when it is granted to heterosexual couples.
Many debates still surround this ruling, especially as it only affects state laws and all religious institutions are still entitled the choice of whether or not to marry same-sex couples.
“It’s important to pay attention to the reasoning used by those opposed to justify denying the vote,” said Elise Chenier, SFU professor of history and director of the Archive of Lesbian Oral Testimony, “There’s still a powerful minority who strongly oppose equal treatment of homosexuals.”
Chenier expressed that although many contemporary struggles remain, this legislation was extremely significant as it was a step towards full citizen rights for homosexual people.
When asked about why it took the U.S. 10 years longer than Canada to legalize gay marriage, Chenier said it’s mainly based on how the two political systems are structured, and that in Canada, gay marriage was presented as a charter challenge and never subjected to a vote. “The Charter of rights and freedoms allowed for a different legal avenue for Canadians,” she said.
Although many are jubilant over the victory of the legislation, people are recognizing that there is still a lot of work to be done. One criticism is that marriage equality is an issue that benefits a minority of people and that the queer community is much more diverse than those who would benefit directly from the legislation. “We need to be careful of not letting the conversation end,” said Devyn Davies, SFU Out on Campus’ (OOC) Interim Office and Volunteer Coordinator. “There are still many challenges that the queer community faces both in the U.S. and abroad.”
OOC representatives collectively expressed their optimism for this legislation to be the turning point for a better future, but that there is still a long way to go. “Vast amounts of resources were spent on marriage equality but not nearly as much is put into supporting transgendered people or queer homeless youth,” explained Davies. “We need to start working to include those most vulnerable and marginalized in our community.”