The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte was a watershed moment for LGBTQ civil rights. For the first time, every keynote speaker at a major party’s political convention endorsed marriage equality. For the first time, marriage equality was in the party platform.
Just a short while later, there were no surprises at the Values Voter Summit, where the usual suspects came out to voice full-throated opposition to letting LGBT Americans marry.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was also among the speakers at the summit and touted Republicans' support of “traditional marriage” because of the institution’s ability to keep people out of poverty.
“That is why we believe in traditional marriage, because marriage, more than any government program ever has or ever will, has lifted up people out of poverty, even those who felt there was no hope,” Cantor said. “Marriage has proven to be that formula which has been more successful at allowing for that pursuit of happiness. And that is why we stand tall and stand proud for traditional marriage.”
Maybe the congressman doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of the nation’s happy couples, but I give him credit for being right that full equality is an economic issue.
As the Human Rights Campaign notes, "there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law.” Couples with means can go to a lawyer and jury-rig some of these protections at the cost of thousands of dollars in legal fees, but most must simply hope or pray that nothing goes wrong. But not even the best legal help can do anything to remedy the tax penalties that burden LGBT families more than their heterosexual peers.
And that’s not all.
Private employers pile on with discrimination against LGBT workers, without any federal law to prevent them from exploiting this vulnerable segment of the workforce. LGBT workers face much higher job instability, more frequent poverty, and consistently lower pay on the job.
It’s legal in 29 states to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or simply to refuse them job-protected leave to care for a sick partner. For some families the consequences are heartbreaking. Courtesy of Pam Spaulding, you can find out more in "An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBT Americans".
The result is clear: LGBT families get less and pay more for it.
While I’m glad to celebrate every victory on the road to equality, I know we’re not there yet. I know there are people out there fighting equality with everything they have and insisting that this cruel economic discrimination is a moral good. After the elation of the DNC in Charlotte, I look to the Values Voter Summit and remember that we have much work still to do.
I hope we can work together.