What Marriage Equality Had Going for It That Other Movements Don’t (Maybe)

Marriage Equality by the Numbers

+ FiveThirtyEight looks at what caused the success of the movement for marriage equality and whether it’s possible for other social movements, like reproductive rights, to follow its blueprint. They attribute the movement’s victory to more people coming out, the fact that “shortly after same-sex marriage became a national issue, most Americans thought that legalization was inevitable,” millennial support, and rising social acceptance. The idea is that other liberal/progressive causes won’t necessarily be able to mimic the success of marriage equality because these pieces aren’t in place.

Some of this analysis feels a little circular to me — same-sex marriage was achieved because it seemed inevitable for same-sex marriage to be achieved? It was supported because it was a socially acceptable thing to support? It also seems to be oversimplifying, perhaps, in some ways. For instance, while it’s true that more Americans came out as LGBT over time, and that straight people are more likely to support same-sex marriage if they know an LGB person, getting an abortion is also incredibly common; many more people have had an abortion than are gay, and yet we don’t see the same phenomenon of acceptance. FiveThirtyEight addresses this and mentions that “research has shown that women who have had abortions are most likely to share their stories with people they perceive as being most sympathetic;” but there are also plenty of people who oppose abortion who know their sisters, wives, girlfriends or daughters have had abortions, who have driven them to get them; even people who will get an abortion themselves and then go protest outside a clinic. Of course families and friends of LGBT people can also be closeminded, but it seems clear that opposition to reproductive rights and other issues discussed in the piece, like climate change, are coming from a different enough place compared to marriage equality that these points of comparison may not be super useful. For instance, it’s probably meaningful that abortion as an issue is tied to control of specifically women’s sexuality (even though people who aren’t women get abortions, that’s how it’s perceived) whereas LGBT equality is linked more to personal liberty and sexuality in general, including men, especially since gay white men were the face of that movement. But it’s interesting to look at movements in conversation with one another, and I hope there’s more writing on this topic!


+ Donald Trump appears to be at least slightly walking back his vow that he would never walk back any of his approach or policies as he general election approached — now he says that his call to ban all Muslims entering the United States was “just a suggestion.”

+ Hillary Clinton pledged that if she becomes President, “the government would ensure that no family pays more than 10 percent of its income on child care.”

+ Marco Rubio does not wanna be Donald Trump’s runningmate.


Photo credit Michael Vadon

Law & Order

+ Germany will annul the convictions of many thousands of gay men who were convicted and sentenced under the notorious Paragraph 175, which categorized homosexuality as a crime. Although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, Paragraph 175 wasn’t repealed until 1994, and the sentences given out under its auspices had never previously been lifted. Men who were punished under it and are still living are eligible for compensation from the state.

+ Italy will legalize same-sex civil unions, ending its status as the last place in Western Europe without them.

+ The EEOC and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are investigating unfair hiring practices based on gender in Hollywood.

+ The Massachusetts State Senate has passed a bill that protects public accommodation for trans people, in opposition to the anti-trans bathroom bills that are gaining momentum in other US states. Now the bill will go to the state House of Representatives, where it likely faces greater opposition.

“It is a glaring omission right now,” Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, the bill’s prime senate sponsor, told BuzzFeed News. She said that unfounded fears about bathrooms had held back the protections from a 2011 bill to protect transgender people in housing and employment. …Chang-Díaz said lawmakers appear ready to fill in “the last gap” after “transgender advocates and individuals have come up, person by person, to tell their story to make this issue real for legislators who are not familiar with them.”

+ Charges against Canadian radio personality Jian Ghomeshi accused of sexual assault have been dropped, and a second trial against him for sexual assault will not proceed.

Instead, they claim, Ghomeshi will instead simply be required to sign a peace bond, essentially a promise to stay out of trouble. In this case, they report, he will also be required to stay away from the CBC employee he is accused of assaulting. A peace bond doesn’t constitute an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on Ghomeshi’s part.

+ We’ve already seen voter ID laws have a major impact at polls in states like Wisconsin and Virginia; unfortunately, research says that will likely also be the case in November for the general election.

The Latino advocacy group NALEO published a study Wednesday estimating that more than 875,000 Latino voters could face difficulty voting in 2016. The group also noted that the states with the fastest growth in their Latino populations, including Alabama and North Carolina, were also the ones to pass new restrictive laws that could suppress voters of color. Many of these changes were made possible by the Supreme Court decision striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and by Congress’ refusal to hold a vote to restore its federal protections. Another report unveiled this week by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin documented hundreds of voters unable to register to vote or cast a ballot in Wisconsin’s April 5 presidential primary because of confusion surrounding the state’s new restrictive election laws. Those hit hardest, said the League of Women Voters’ Andrea Kaminski, were students.

Police & Prison

+ Well this is just a whole mess! The director of the FBI says that a “viral video effect” is causing less aggressive policing, which he says is in turn “driving an alarming spike in murders in many cities.” The director, James Comey, says he admits he can offer no statistical proof. No word on how the alleged “viral video effect” is impacting the “murders in many cities” committed by police officers.

+ Oh for the love of cheese fries: the Louisiana Senate is considering a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that would make any violence against police, firefighters, or EMTs a hate crime. That isn’t how it works! That isn’t how any of this works!

+ Michael Slager, who killed unarmed Walter Scott by shooting him eight times in the back, was federally indicted this week. The charges are technically punishable with the death penalty, although the prosecutor won’t seek it. Slager is currently out on bail.

Research & Data

+ We already know that bisexual people are generally more likely to experience poor mental health outcomes, including depression and suicidality, than either their straight or gay/lesbian counterparts; a new study shows that this holds true for bi youth, too, especially young bi women. It’s not clear whether nonbinary youth were included in the study. From the study itself:

Bisexual and questioning females endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual females. Lesbians, bisexual females, and questioning females all exhibited significantly higher lifetime suicide scores than heterosexual females. Interestingly, bisexual females exhibited the highest current suicide scores. Gay and bisexual males endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual males. Gay males also exhibited higher scores on the anxiety subscale than heterosexual males, with bisexual males exhibiting a nonsignificant trend toward higher scores as well.

+ While in theory, poor people pursuing cases in civil court should have civil legal aid resources to turn to, in practice they pretty much don’t — there’s only 0.64 of a civil legal attorney per 10,000 people living in poverty, according to the National Center for Access to Justice.

+ A new report from the US Department of Education finds that while more than half of students in the US are of color, their teachers are “overwhelmingly white.”

+ A new survey says that Scotland would be the most gay-friendly country in Europe if it were independent.

The Rainbow Index, which compares laws and government policies, showed that while the U.K. has slipped from first place last year to third this year, Scotland would top a European league table after meeting 90 percent of the criteria laid down by the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) campaign group.

+ New food insecurity maps highlight the high percentages of American Indian and Alaskan Native families who have trouble getting enough to eat.

The newly released estimates, based on 2014 data, show rates of county-level food insecurity, which is defined as limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Among all 3,142 US counties, Apache County, Arizona—which includes parts of the Navajo Nation, Fort Apache, and Zuni reservations—has the highest child food insecurity rate in the nation. At 42 percent, it is almost double the national rate.
Not far behind is the Wade Hampton Census Area (renamed in 2015 to the Kusilvak Census Area) in Alaska, which has a child food insecurity rate of approximately 40 percent.
AIANs of all ages are also at higher risk of food insecurity than the general population. While less than 1 percent of counties (26 counties) in the United States have a majority AIAN population, nearly 60 percent of these counties (15 counties) are among those with the highest food-insecurity rates in the nation (defined as overall food insecurity rates among the top 10 percent).

Health & Reproductive Rights

+ Gavin Ahern, a theology teacher at a Catholic school in Phoenix, passed out flyers in class comparing Planned Parenthood with the KKK. Parent and alumni are not thrilled.

+ A new law in Utah will require doctors performing an abortion on someone at 20 weeks or later to anesthesize them — without informing them of the potential risks of anesthesia. The law is based on the erroneous belief that the fetus being terminated can feel pain after 20 weeks. So, in summation, people seeking abortions will be put at uninformed risk because of a medical fairy tale.

“You’re asking me to invent a procedure that doesn’t have any research to back it up,” said Dr. Leah Torres, an OB-GYN who works at one of Utah’s two licensed abortion clinics, in an interview with the New York Times. “You want me to experiment on my patients.” Utah physicians have strongly opposed the bill since its inception, arguing that unscientific opinions from state lawmakers have no place in a safe doctor-patient relationship — especially if they put a woman’s life at risk.

+ Crisis pregnancy centers, institutions that aim to intercept people who might seeking abortions and convince them to stay pregnant using specious medical expertise, are not only unethical but also pretty bad at accomplishing their goal.

Of the 2.6 million clients who visited crisis pregnancy centers since 2004, 3.52 percent, or 92,679 people, decided against having an abortion. The statistics come from eKYROS.com, Inc., an anti-choice, Texas-based software company, which says more than 1,200 CPCs use its software to track clients and measure results.

Grab Bag

+ Girlfriends in Floria were voted prom king and queen! Very cute!

Lindsey Creel and Brie Grimes

Lindsey Creel and Brie Grimes

+ The Black female West Point candidates who were criticized after raising their fists in uniform in a posed photo will not face any punishment, thankfully.

+ Harvard instituted restrictions on same-gender clubs, arguing that they “enact forms of privilege” and banning them from official university status — but women’s groups and sororities received the same ban as all-male clubs, which some women are saying discourages necessary spaces for women to build community with each other.

+ On how Black organizers disruped the NFL draft in Chicago as part of a campaign to see Dante Servin, the police officer who killed Rekia Boyd, fired, and to see Chicago State University funded.

+ 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer and 30 other young people from Standing Rock Reservation are campaigning against an oil pipeline that threatens the community’s water supply. “‘It’s not if it leaks but when it leaks,’ she says. ‘All pipelines leak.'”

+ In an era when most educational institutions are trying to figure out how to keep weapons out of their schools, a North Carolina school board has decided they’re cool with students carrying pepper spray — with the implication being that trans students are a greater risk to the student body than 16-year-olds with incompletely formed frontal lobes carrying pepper spray. This is completely terrifying.

+ Salon has a video about five times this year Muslims were kicked off planes because non-Muslim people were “uncomfortable.”

+ A new scholarship will help 500 young undocumented people access a college education.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. One of the things I never see connected to bisexual mental health is that GLAAD stat that came out last year that just under 50% of bisexual women are sexually assaulted, and they are dramatic more likely to be sexually assaulted by both men and other queer women (whether they were more likely to be assaulted by straight women wasn’t mentioned to the best of my recollection). That is a crazy high statistic, and is goddamn likely to be affecting the mental health of the community.

    • yes, that’s such a good point! although unfortunately there isn’t a ton of research on bi experiences, i suspect this phenomenon also feeds back into itself — given how sexual predators target vulnerable people who are looking for support/don’t have a support network, bi women with depression/anxiety other mental illnesses are likely appealing for them. i think it’s a really poisonous and harmful cycle!

  2. 538 used to be a blog where they used data and spared us their wild speculation. Now they’re just another site that’s full of random speculation and blatant prejudice, but they rest on their reputation for being objective. It’s so disappointing. I used to go to them for a reality check, because they would avoid hopes and fears and generally gut-driven prejudice, and ask questions based on concrete facts. I realize data and raw numbers can be manipulated to force conclusions, but they used to be really good at debunking things like that. Now they’re churning out the same kind of stupid punditry they used to make their reputation critiquing.

  3. The pipeline story interests me because we recently had people protesting in my town about a pipeline that would run through their rice fields. The more I look at this though the more I think that the two pipelines might be one and the same. Whats worrisome is the general feeling of “of course the pipe might break and spill, but thats a risk that all pipelines face” from my coworkers was almost unanimous. For them, the oil company is a god send for our city because of all the jobs it provides and that seems to cloud their judgment on what “risks” the company is allowed to take. I just hope the oil company has taken into great consideration the potential damage it could inflict upon the people who will actually be effected.

  4. Ok i am Trans and i like girls . So , you light say lesbian. As not to offend anyone. my Brain is female, body male (For now at least) Ok so i am legally female and i marry a female (thats same sex). What i am trying to say is Legal Same sex marriage also helps the Trans-ladies who date and love women. If they are legally female with new birth certificate.Then that fall as same sex. It benefits me as well. You that i am a Christian and at first to say “same sex Marriage” i did have a problem with those words in calling that. Could have have “civil unions” like in Europe. BUT, then my second thoughts was who cares of the words. it still the same thing “Union or Marriage”. I know some will never see my as a girl even if the laws say i am. I am not exactly a Feminist but i know I’m not the opposite. There is so much i am learning everyday from ladies Cis-females. In a way you have had all your lives to be and to learn to be females. i have to learn this now and late. Please bear with me if i do not understand something or ask questions.

    • People who think that trans women are any less women or any less lesbians than cis women are not welcome on Autostraddle. You don’t need to worry about offending people by asserting yourself.

      You should keep in mind that many Christian denominations as well as other religions perform marriages between two men, women, or two nonbinary people as a sacrament, and that using another word would be elevating some denominations’ sacraments above those of all others. Calling it a civil union would be discriminating against people’s religions. Calling it a marriage does not.

  5. HMM I’ve been reading that report of LGBTI rights in Europe and I find it a bit flawed in that it doesn’t really say in some area whether they consider a change a good or a bad thing. Just reading the France page, two things stand out : the intersex person who was recognised as gender neutral by the court has now seen the decision revoked under appeal, so that’s done.

    Also they mention the “repeal” of ban on gay men to donate blood, when only conditions have changed. Now gay men who haven’t had sex for 12 months can donate blood… The document gives zero commentary on this, and it looks like a “progress” thing among other advances, when in reality it is just as stigmatising as ever, painting gay men as promiscuous. The stupid thing is that the questionnaire ALREADY has a provision for people who have multiple sex partner (as in, if you’ve slept with two people in the last X months, you can’t give blood regardless of your gender and the gender of people you’ve slept with).

    Also for fuck’s sex, medically assisted insemination is still illegal for lesbians in France, what year is this ??? Thanks for stomping on this electoral promise, “left” government. UGH.

  6. I doubt that support for gay marriage had anything to do with straight men supporting gay men’s sexuality because I’ve basically never seen any enthusiasm for that among straight men. I get a lot of interested parties about female homosexuality, but that’s mostly because straight men have been able to make it about their own sexuality through the wonders of porn. So now two women who don’t want to fuck them is a turn on.
    I think it is significant that gay marriage is about people fighting to have families and be more traditional/like conventional conservative straight people. People could say “we’re just like you. We also want to get married and have children” There is no equivalent to that with abortion. Women aren’t going to get anywhere with Republicans saying, “we’re just like you, we also don’t want unplanned pregnancies.”

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