Recent months have seen a swelling amount of news related to LGBTQA issues in nearly every area of our society. The 2012 election cycle ended with the first ever adoptions of same sex marriages by popular vote in Maine, Maryland, and Washington and the election of a president who would go on to speak of the 1969 Stonewall Riots on par with other watershed civil rights moments in his inaugural address. Three additional nations, Uruguay, New Zealand, and France have legalized same-sex marriage, adding to a growing list of diverse nations.
In late March, the nation’s attention was fixated on the Supreme Court as it heard two cases concerning California’s Proposition 8 and the federal governments Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Hearings on both cases are anticipated by many as they stand to make great strides the attainment of equal rights. The nation seems to have made a pivotal shift, with the Pew Research Center reporting that “recent polling clearly shows that Americans are much more accepting of same-sex marriage than they were a decade ago” with “all of the major national polls now find more supporters than opponents of same-sex marriage.”
Even more conservative organizations like the Boy Scouts of America seem poised to move towards equality with as scout executives last week unveiled a new policy that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” even with the support of the Mormon Church, the organizations largest sponsor of scout troops.
But while progress is being made, many unfriendly environments remain. Particularly visible has been major league sports which has had a curious absence of LGBT identified individuals and has had hostile moments including Kobe Bryant’s shout of a homophobic slur and cornerback Chris Culliver saying he’s not okay with gay players in the NFL or on his team. But someone has stepped forward to break this absence and become the first male U.S. athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay. Jason Collins has done so in a Sports Illustrated story to appear May 6th, but accessible online currently. In this article, Collins describes his struggle in accepting his sexuality and the challenge of being different in major league sports.
Taking the helm of a delicate issue, Collins says, “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
While Collins was remarked he had “no idea” about the reaction of fellow players and officials, it has been a largely warm reception. The Huffington Post reports, “NBA commissioner David Stern applauded Collins in a statement cited by ESPN, noting, ‘Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.'” Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld felt similarly, calling Collins “a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career.”
Collins joins a list of leaders who are navigating an important time in the struggle for equal rights in our nation and world. As it becomes more of a national issue, these brave voices help personalize the struggle and provide hope for coming generations. Through this sort of action and the concerted efforts of activists the world over, 2013 may prove to be one of the most important years in LGBT rights.