Opinion: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Helps, but Queer Communities Are Still Threatened

Out on the Albion College Quad, in front of Robinson Hall, the flagpole displays both the U.S. American Flag and the Progress Pride Flag. Having both flags on display together, especially in the wake of a difficult year for the queer community, is meant to be a display of how the queer community belongs, both on campus and in this country. (Photo by Juan G. Rodriguez)

I’m a lover of history; call it a special interest of mine. 

I’ve spent many an afternoon enthralled by the actions of marginalized communities. It’s fascinating, getting to hear the histories that are denied to you throughout your lifetime. It’s even more fascinating learning about how different communities have stared down threats to their existence. 

Historically speaking, the safety of queer communities cannot be ensured by the government. Look through history, and you will find many individuals on trial for their sexual and gender identities. You will see queer communities being targetted simply because who they are is deemed to be outside the norm and a threat to modern society. Arguing that queer folks should be targetted because of such reasons is absurd, to say the least.

The threat is very rarely just overt homophobia and transphobia, though. There’s another, equally damaging element that no one seems to openly acknowledge: that of apathy and a lack of care given to the concerns of the queer community. 

You see this in the actions of police refusing to provide security for drag shows, for instance. The government’s only crime then is inaction, allowing far-right organizations like the Proud Boys to threaten and harass communities trying to host harmless events and encourage the self-expression of others. 

In the worst cases though, the government will turn its contemptuous gaze toward queer communities. Take, for instance, the blizzard of anti-queer legislation we’re living through. State legislatures across this country are making a concerted effort to punish queer folks for simply existing. I don’t need to look further than my own home state of Texas. All of the anti-queer bills filed this session might have died before they reached Greg Abbott’s helldesk, but I genuinely doubt that queer Texans have seen the last of this sort of attack.

It’s in the midst of this horrendous blizzard that we find the US Senate, by some miracle, voting to pass a bill that would provide protections for same-sex marriage. The Respect For Marriage Act was able to make it through the senate with 12 Republicans actually doing the right thing in joining in to help pass this bill over the 60-vote threshold.

This isn’t so much a win as much as it is a bulwark for when the Supreme Court decides to shift that contemptuous gaze over to Obergefell V Hodge (2015), the landmark case that determined that the right to marriage is constitutionally protected under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Using this interpretation, the court determined that same-sex couples were just as entitled to marriage as opposite-sex couples. 

The bill the Senate passed wouldn’t require the states to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Rather, it would require states to recognize marriages performed in other states. Alongside this, the bill would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as well as having allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. 

I’d like to take a moment away from my criticism of the United States Government to recognize the Senate getting something done, for once. Even more so for getting 12 Republicans on board.

Don’t clap too long though. No one in government deserves your praise.

In 2020, two years ago, 12,138 law enforcement agencies across the country reported data regarding hate crimes to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, a national repository of voluntarily submitted data. 8,052 incidents were reported with 11,126 victims. 20% of those 11,000 cited sexual identity as a motivation behind their targeting. 2.7% cited gender identity.

Reports of hate crimes have been on the rise, especially since the 2016 election. Shockingly, having a fascist in the highest office of the land encouraged members of the far-right to crawl out from Hell’s deepest pits. 

Donald Trump weaponized fear of the marginalized to win the devotion of people who would do whatever it took to preserve their way of life. It’s a tragedy that such devotion has been reasserted with blood many times over. 

The Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado on  Nov. 19 was heartbreaking, to say the least. The shooter came into a space where members of the community were trying to have a good time, killed five people and wounded 17 others. This was a blatant attack on the queer community. 

Do you know who stopped the shooter before he could claim more lives? A transgender woman did. She stomped on the shooter’s face with her high heels while a Navy vet pistol-whipped the shooter. I salute their service. Someone had to do something

Had police arrived on the scene before the shooter had been subdued, I’m not sure they would have been immediate help without more blood being spilled. We’ve seen it before: Cops often lack the nerve to do what needs to be done to protect a community, especially when they, at the very least, are taught by individuals who sympathize with far-right extremist groups, and at worst, are active members of hate groups. 

When the police, the individuals given the reins to exercise the state’s authority, are unwilling to act in defense of communities, it’s cause for concern, I argue. If the state can’t protect marginalized communities, then who will?

Historically, it’s often been the case that when the state fails to protect a community, the people themselves take their safety into their own hands. You see it in communities like those that the Black Panther Party operated in, for instance. They would distribute breakfast to kids who couldn’t afford it. They would stand armed watch as police officers served warrants, policing the police, as it were.

Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James, a Navy veteran who helped subdue the shooter, said something that has stuck with me. 

“If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in this world, but I am only one person,” said James in an interview with PBS. “Thankfully, we are a family and family looks after one other.” 

It’s that last line that I repeat in my head. The idea of loving a community so much that you see it as another family strikes me to my very heart. It’s an act of love, what James did that night. He did that, not just for himself, but for every single person trapped in that moment with the shooter. 

That kind of love for one’s community is what can make a genuine change in the world. Caring for those that make you feel welcome and invited is the most important thing a person could do, I would argue. 

When the politicians and the government fail to keep a community safe, I like to hold to the hope that there are others out there who love their community enough to give it the proper care and nourishment that is needed to make it through dark times. 

The world might be a miserable and scary place, as the pessimists describe it, but there’s nothing stopping us from lighting a fire to keep each other warm though.

About Juan G. Rodriguez 45 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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