Discrimination against the LGBT community has been an issue in politics for centuries, but within the last few years it has grown and taken over the spotlight in the United States. In 2004, President Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment that restricts marriage to just between a man and a woman but supposedly still leaves civil unions as a possibility in each state. "The union of a man and a woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith," Bush said. Many people in this country believe that gays should be treated as second-class citizens, and by denying them rights such as marriage, which is exactly what is happening. According to the Public Agenda organization, fifteen states have hate crime laws that do not include crimes based on sexual orientation. This leaves homosexuals very susceptible to being targeted, and is blatant discrimination. Between the ban on gay marriage and civil unions and lack of anti-discrimination laws, the LGBT population is facing inequality and harsh unfairness.
Discrimination against homosexuals dates back to 1610 when the Virginia Colony passed its first anti-sodomy law in America. Since then, there has been a long list of acts and amendments passed in hopes to prevent gay people from having equal rights. In 1952 the McCarran-Walters Act banned “sexual deviates” from immigrating to the U.S. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act applied to lesbians and gay men. In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right to refuse employment on grounds of homosexuality and in 1993 a Virginia circuit judge denied custody of a 2-year-old boy to his mother because she was a lesbian. But, after some time, most of the acts were repealed and declared unconstitutional.
For the most part, the government has been making an attempt to reduce the amount of discrimination that homosexuals face, but the new amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions is really taking a toll on a number of people. What most people do not realize is that the amendment affects more than just the LGBT population. It also affects straight couples with common law marriages, and caretakers of handicap people. According to Fair Wisconsin, with the passing of the amendment, caretakers will no longer be able to put the person that they care for on their insurance. Also, the amendment has been used in Ohio as a way of getting domestic abusers a lesser sentence. By claiming that the abuser and his or her partner are not considered a common law marriage anymore, the abuser is not a “domestic batterer” but rather just an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend; the punishment is not as great. The ban also prevents gay couples from obtaining around 1,000 rights that heterosexual couples receive without question. Thirty-seven states already have “defense of marriage acts,” that limit marriage to couples of the opposite sex.
Right-winged conservatives, however, have a much different view on this issue. To most who are against gay marriage and giving homosexuals other rights, it's about preserving the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Church and state have gotten to a point where there is hardly a clear line that separates the two. "Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society” said President Bush. The marriage ban inserts religion into the Constitution, because the objection to gay unions comes straight from the document the religious right relies on: the Bible. The first amendment declares freedom of religion, but by passing the new amendment people are being force to follow a particular set of religious beliefs in which they may not support.
In 1981 Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law prohibiting the discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing and public accommodation. But now in 2006 the state is getting ready to vote in November to take the rights of gay couples away. This ban will affect the UW system negatively: a number of professors have already said they are leaving if the ban passes, and diversity on campus will likely include only a small number of people that belong to the LGBT community. Currently UW-Madison is the only Big Ten school that does not provide domestic partner benefits to its professors, and many feel that this lack of benefits is causing Wisconsin students to miss out on an opportunity to further understand our diverse population. However, civil rights activists in Wisconsin predict a win for the LGBT community on November 7th—this win still would not provide gay couples with marriage rights.
In the past century, the American government has passed many pieces of legislature in an attempt to equalize society, but we still have a long way to go. While laws that protect against racial and gender discrimination have already been enacted, problems still remain in how these laws are interpreted. America is now shifting gears to focus on sexual orientation discrimination, specifically marriage rights. Nineteen states have already passed amendments to their constitutions banning marriage between gay couples, and with elections in the near future there is no way of telling how this issue will be resolved. As long as vast opinion differences exist in America, the issue of discrimination will never be completely eliminated, and the debate continues.