One step forward, two steps back for gay community
December 22, 2009
By Ehrik Aldana
A look at the future of gay politics
It had been two months since petitioners against Senate Bill 5688 qualified Referendum 71 for the ballot. For two months, the Washington LGBT community actively fought to extend the rights of same-sex domestic partnerships. After two months, their efforts paid off.
On Nov. 3, Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” bill, was approved by Washington state voters 53 percent to 47 percent — a victory for Washington’s gay and lesbian community.
While domestic partners’ rights have been growing in steps since the creation of a domestic partnership registry in 2007, the passing of R-71 expanded the rights and protections of same-sex domestic partners to that of married spouses — the ability to take family and medical leave when a partner is seriously ill, the right to workers compensation coverage, and insurance coverage and group policy rights.
While R-71 didn’t explicitly concern same-sex marriage, opposition to the referendum made this a primary tool in combating the measure. Currently, the U.S. federal government recognizes marriage as a legal union exclusively between a man and a woman under the Defense Marriage Law.
Similar stances of opposition have been recently displayed on a state level. Also on Nov. 3, Maine voters rejected a ballot measure 53 percent to 47 percent, in turn repealing the legalization of same-sex marriage passed in May. Earlier this month, the New York state Senate rejected a measure that would have made New York just the sixth state to allow gay marriage, becoming the 31st state to reject same-sex marriage when put to a popular vote.
When it comes to the argument of civil rights for the LGBT community, decisions have not always been in their favor. But with a rising generation of teen voters preparing to mail their own ballots, America may soon see a shift in regard to gay politics.
Teens today are exposed to gay culture in a more positive and tolerant atmosphere than ever before.
Today, there are more than 3,000 U.S. high school gay-straight alliances — clubs intended to promote a safe and supportive environment for LGBT youth and their straight allies — that are registered with the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. These include GSAs in Issaquah, Liberty and Skyline high schools, as well as the Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus. In 1997, high school GSAs numbered only about 100.
With the youth of today currently breaking cultural boundaries between LGBT and straight communities, the political climate prepares itself for strides of change.