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Gay Rights Groups Push for Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • Chris Simkins

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear a case involving laws that define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Voters in several states approved same-sex marriage initiatives last month. And gay rights groups are now pushing harder to legalize same-sex marriage across the country and strike down other measures they say discriminate against gays and lesbians.

George Ramirez and his partner German Roa have lived together for 16 years. Now, they are allowed to marry in Maryland, after voters there endorsed a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

"We want the opportunity to consider marriage for all its purposes for making a public statement, for the legal rights, and we want to be able to consider that just like anybody else," said Ramirez.

Gay rights advocates won election victories for same-sex marriage in four states last November. Now there is a drive to push for laws in other states to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Gay Rights groups in Minnesota celebrated after voters rejected a measure to define marriage as between "a man and a woman." The state was the first in the nation to defeat a marriage amendment that has been enshrined in 30 other state constitutions.

Now there is growing support for the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Gary Schiff, is a lawmaker in Minneapolis.

"You are going to see gays and lesbians turning their attention to the state capitol and asking for a marriage equality bill at the top of the agenda," said Schiff.
Up until last month, Americans had never approved a same-sex marriage measure by popular vote.

Derek McCoy is the president of the Maryland Family Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage. He says he expects lawsuits challenging the state's new marriage equality law.

"We now have changed the definition of marriage in our state. It [same sex marriage] is going to be taught at the earliest ages, kindergarten, first grade, second grade your kids will not only be taught about this issue but educated and formed and influenced that this is the right thing to do," said McCoy.

But Gay Rights groups also have their eyes set on other issues besides marriage. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian civil rights organization, launched a national television advertisement promoting its victories and calling for more civil rights legislation. Brian Moulton is the group's legal director.

"In a great deal of places marriage is not the primary issue for our community. It is more basic things like employment protections and housing protections. Right now, it is still perfectly legal to fire somebody based on their sexual orientation in 29 states," said Moulton.

William Galston is a social policy expert with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"I have rarely seen sentiments shift so quickly on highly charged social issues. It is clear which direction this is evolving and I would expect those pressures to reflect themselves in state level initiatives to protect rights for everyone and more slowly at the federal [government] level as well," said Galston.

Gay Rights advocates say they hope the momentum from same-sex marriage will inspire similar campaigns aimed at ending discrimination.
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