On June 26th, I was glued to my Facebook news feed more than normal. I was waiting with bated breath for the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on behalf of fairness, equality, and love. When the ruling came in, and the Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, I was beyond delighted. I felt such a sense of relief that an unconstitutional and unjust law in our society had been revoked. We had achieved equality, and thousands of couples across the United States were going to receive both state and federal rights that are guaranteed under the definition of legal marriage in our country. I was also overjoyed because this ruling affects many of my LGBT friends who live in Minnesota and Washington, who are now able to marry their same-sex partners and be guaranteed the same rights as my married heterosexual friends and family. It was a great day of celebration.
The celebration now feels bittersweet. Idaho, my current state of residence, is exempt in this new ruling because of a constitutional amendment that bans both local and interstate same-sex marriages. As a queer person living in Idaho, this makes me feel like a 2nd class citizen. I feel jealous of my LGBT-identified friends in states where same-sex marriage is legal. While these feelings induce a slight sense of guilt and helplessness, I hold on to the hope that equality and justice will eventually be widespread across our country, and marriage will be a guaranteed right for all same-sex couples regardless of where they live.
I believe that the recent increase of federal support for LGBTQ rights will soon cause ripple effects of justice and equality for us here in Idaho. A revitalized movement to pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate is receiving increased support and moving forward again to be voted on by the Senate and the House. President Obama also supports the passing of an all-inclusive ENDA that includes gender identity as well as sexual orientation. ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the bill isn’t perfect, it is another huge advance in equality that would benefit us LGBT folks here in Idaho, by providing federal employment protections.
Idaho had a few moves towards equality in April. The City of Moscow passed a city-wide anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The state of Idaho has also dropped the requirement for surgery to change your gender marker on state-issued IDs. This is an additional victory for transgender Idahoans.
As I write this post, more same-sex couples are coming forward to challenge unjust laws and increase the number of states that allow same-sex marriage. The most recent case includes the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) backing a lesbian couple in Pennsylvania to challenge the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. It’s simply a matter of time, as equality continues to spread across our nation, that equality will come to Idaho. It’s an exciting time for LGBTQ equality in our country. Now is the time we continue to fight for what is fair and make change in Idaho and our nation in general. I hope that I can soon marry my partner and be guaranteed the same rights under the legal marriage, regardless of where we live. Marriage, safety, and protections under the law should be rights for all, and sexual orientation or gender identity should never be a hindrance to these rights.