Recognizing gay rights

The month of June provided two major landmarks in the progress of gay rights. On June 18, Canadian leaders announced they will propose a national policy allowing gay marriages. On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that laws criminalizing private sexual acts between members of the same sex were unconstitutional. These decisions show how attitudes toward homosexual rights in the United States and elsewhere are changing.

According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 55 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should not be recognized; however, this number was 68 percent in 1996. Progress in recognizing gay rights is also apparent when one looks at the beliefs of the youngest Americans – this country’s future decision-makers. Sixty-one percent of polled Americans ages 18-29 said homosexual marriage should be valid.

The Supreme Court’s decision seems to reflect this growing gay-friendly attitude. “(Bowers v. Hardwick, an earlier Supreme Court case decision that upheld the constitutionality of Texas’s same-sex sodomy law), demeans the lives of homosexual persons Ö the statute (criminalizing same-sex sodomy) furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion for Lawrence v. Texas.

Despite attitudinal and legal improvements concerning gay rights, many issues continue to demean the lives of homosexuals. Limits on gay marriage and adoption and discrimination against gay job applicants and employees still exist. In the near future, it will be up to this nation’s lawmakers and the Supreme Court to correct these limits and discriminatory behavior. The shifts in U.S. public opinion regarding gay rights will help facilitate this necessary transition.

Gradually, the arcane and incorrect assertions about homosexuality are falling by the wayside in the public’s eye. Eventually, the injustices of the past will be mended, but justice delayed is freedom denied.