Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/8166

Posted on 30 August 2009 at 0:00 GMT

Fighting for LGBT rights in the USA

This article is from the August 2009 issue of Socialism Today, the Socialist Party magazine.

FRUSTRATED BY the inaction of the Obama administration and unwilling to continue to accept their second-class status, gay rights activists have called a national march for equality in Washington, DC, on 11 October. This coincides with National Coming Out Day, and is 30 years after the first national march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights. The march has one simple demand: full equality under the law for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in all 50 states.

Despite advances over the past 40 years, LGBT people continue to face tremendous oppression. Yet recent months have witnessed an upsurge in confidence among LGBT rights activists, alongside growing impatience with the political establishment's refusal to grant equal rights. Many were emboldened by the massive, spontaneous outpouring of support for gay rights on 15 November 2008, when 130,000 people in 200 plus cities demonstrated against the passage of Proposition 8 in California banning same-sex marriage. Since then, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Iowa have legalised same-sex marriage, making it legal in six states - Connecticut and Massachusetts are the others.

Obama's election raised hopes. Many LGBT activists enthusiastically supported his campaign. While saying he opposed same-sex marriage, Obama made a number of important promises: to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in the armed forces, passing federal hate crimes legislation and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. Yet, since taking office, his administration has taken little action.

In June, Obama's Justice Department even issued a brief supporting DOMA, which allows states to refuse to recognise gay marriages from other states and prohibits recognition by the federal government. This brief compared same-sex marriage to incest and paedophilia. It claimed that DOMA does not discriminate against gays because they can still enter 'traditional marriages' (but not marry the person they love). Feeling pressure from the firestorm of outrage, Obama extended some federal benefits to same-sex partners of LGBT federal employees, but excluded healthcare. The response among many activists was that this was nowhere near enough.

There is a growing acceptance of LGBT people in society, particularly among youth. As CNN reported of a recent poll, "49% of those questioned say they have a family member or close friend who is gay. That's up eight points from 1998 and up 17 points from 1992. Fifty-eight percent of those aged 18 to 34 say they have a family member or close friend who's gay". Further: 44% of Americans now say same-sex marriage should be legal (up from 21% in November 2004). This includes 58% of those aged 18-34. (4 May)

There is a widespread willingness to struggle within the LGBT community and the refusal to continue to accept second-class status. There is a growing recognition that winning equal rights will require massive pressure on the political establishment.

This is the context for the call to march on Washington. Just like the massive demonstrations against Proposition 8 last November, the march was initiated from the grassroots, bypassing the moderate establishment leaders of the mainstream gay rights organisations with their ties to the Democratic Party leadership. As leading gay rights activist Cleve Jones (one of the initiators of the march) put it: "We need a new strategy... We're tired of this state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city struggle for fractions of equality. There is no fraction of equality. You are an equal people, or you are not". (Democracy Now! 19 June)

The march will attempt to link up the local struggles, and demand federal recognition of equal rights, which should be guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying "the equal protection of the laws" to anyone. There is the potential for 11 October to be one of the largest demonstrations for LGBT rights in US history if a bold lead is given. Such a demonstration would strike a blow against homophobia and discrimination. By showing the collective support that exists for equal rights, it would raise the confidence of millions of LGBT people and allies across the country, forcing discussion on the issues and bringing real pressure to bear.

To build the most effective movement, activists should not concern themselves with the supposed needs of 'friendly' Democratic politicians, but start from the standpoint of the needs of LGBT people. Leading Democratic politicians have shown again and again that, rather than take a principled stand, they are willing to sell out the interests of LGBT people for narrow electoral gains - just as they have refused to take a principled stand on war, workers' rights, etc.

While winning legal equality is a crucial step, the struggle must be taken further to transforming the social conditions faced by LGBT people. This includes fighting for more resources for LGBT youth, against homophobic bullying in schools, and for decent, guaranteed healthcare and jobs for all. This will require linking the struggle of LGBT people with the struggles of all workers and oppressed peoples.

Socialists wholeheartedly support the national demonstration and see it as part of the struggle to build a better world, free from oppression and exploitation. We link the struggle for equal rights for LGBT people to the need to replace the capitalist system, which gives rise not only to economic crises and wars, but also feeds off sexism, racism, and homophobia. We stand for a new, socialist world in which people are able to define their own relationships and sexuality, free from economic constraints and discriminatory laws.

Dan DiMaggio, Socialist Alternative - CWI USA

Some facts on LGBT oppression

ON THE 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots marking the birth of the modern gay liberation movement, police brutally raided several gay bars in Fort Worth, Texas, leaving one man severely hurt with a brain injury.

Over one in four LGBT youth who come out to their parents are told they must leave home. Between 20-40% of the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth in the US identify as LGBT. They often suffer violence, discrimination, and psychological abuse at shelters. (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2006)

In schools, bullying is still a horrific problem. According to a survey by the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network, "nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year, three-fifths felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and about a third skipped a day off school in the past month because of feeling unsafe". Further: "44% reported being physically harassed and 22% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation". (National School Climate Survey, 2007) These statistics are even worse for transgender youth.

Suicide rates for LGBT youth are estimated to be up to four times higher than their heterosexual peers.

Same-sex marriage is still prohibited in 44 states.

It is legal to fire someone on the basis of sexual orientation in 30 states.

It is legal to fire someone for being transgender in 38 states.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

LGBT:

trianglePriced out of Pride

triangleBristol Socialist Party: Defend LGBT+ rights

triangleStonewall riots' legacy shows need for socialist struggle to win LGBT+ liberation

triangleSexual harassment of LGBT+ workers shows need for unions to fight

triangleInternational Women's Day 2019: End oppression with fight for socialism

USA:

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Struggles in the USA

triangleWhat lies behind the US-China trade war?

triangleMueller report underlines Democrats' weakness

triangle'Green Book' film: a timely reminder of racism in the USA

Gay:

triangle30 years on from Section 28: the legacy of fighting LGBT+ attacks must continue

triangleSupport for Socialist Party campaigns at biggest ever Leeds Pride

triangleLessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

Sex:

triangleOver one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education

triangleMoving look at school students' many perspectives on sexism

Youth:

triangleSocialist Party Youth and Student national meeting

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

18/9/19

Socialist Party

Donate to help us move our press by October

18/9/19

Ilford

Ilford: strike forces school management to back down

18/9/19

London

PCS members at BEIS maintain just fightback

18/9/19

The Socialist

Selling the Socialist

18/9/19

London

London: packed public meeting discusses political crisis

18/9/19

Worcestershire

Worcestershire campaigners plan march to save Bewdley Fire Station

18/9/19

CWU

Strike back to stop bullying Royal Mail bosses

18/9/19

South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire defeats fire cuts

18/9/19

Nottingham

Nottingham College UCU - more strike action planned

18/9/19

PCS

DVSA strike - employer asks for talks

18/9/19

PCS

PCS general secretary candidate: unions must mobilise to drive out Boris

18/9/19

Climate change

Climate protests: which way forward after 20 September?

18/9/19

Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire health visitors strike boost

17/9/19

Trade union

South Yorkshire FBU celebrates halt to cuts

17/9/19

London

Earth strike day in London

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999