Equality: The Unwavering Fight

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Equality: The Unwavering Fight

Our hearts are filled with sadness following the horrific June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. A gunman opened fire on innocent men and women, killing forty-nine people and injuring more than 50. The shooter destroyed the lives of countless individuals, including the family and friends of those who lost their lives.

The sheer disregard for human life displayed by the shooter reminds all of us that discrimination against homosexuals has not been eradicated.

On June 24, 2015, same-sex marriage was declared legal in the United States following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. While the Court’s decision was an enormous stride for equality, this massacre aimed at homosexuals has turned back the clock. Naturally, it is causing many to worry about how intolerance continues to build barriers.

While most of the nation joined together in solidarity in the wake of this tragic event, CNN reports that one county in Alabama did not join in, showcasing the divide still occurring within the United States.

Reporter Deena Zaru writes, “Officials in an Alabama county refused to lower flags to half-staff to honor the victims of the Orlando mass shooting this week even after President Barack Obama and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered flags to be lowered.” She continues on, “Citing the U.S. Flag Code, Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey told CNN’s Erin Burnett on ‘OutFront’ Friday that while he is ‘certainly heartbroken in the face of tragedy,’ the code states that the flag should only be lowered ‘for instances where there are the passing of individuals who have given significant distinguished service to our country.’”

Despite the narrow-minded opposition, the LGBT community and their allies will unite even stronger in their fight for human rights, dignity, and respect. Education needs to be at the forefront of the effort to break down these barriers and achieve true equality.

Part of this education is the fact that when the Court made its historic ruling legalizing marriage for  all, they also believed that parentage rights became equal for all.

For the most part, the general public was unaware that the issue of parentage was not included in the landmark ruling. Even those same-sex couples marrying after the decision do not have a clear path to equal parental rights, as individual states still control who may appear on a birth certificate, with no mandate from the Supreme Court for both spouses to be registered as a child’s parents. Additionally, there is a group of same-sex parents who had children before the legalization of “marriage for all,” who will potentially have no legal rights to their children in the event of separation.   In most cases, only one parent is on the birth certificate because there was no “marital presumption” at the time of the child’s birth, which could deprive the former partner of any legal right to the child they have been co-parenting, sometimes for years.

It’s a daunting position to be in, and great care needs to be taken to ascertain that both parents receive the same rights to their children, regardless of whether they were married at the time the children were born.

While laws will evolve, interim parentage issues will be challenging and may result in heartbreak.  That’s why parentage is the next legal journey to embark on. We need to ensure that same-sex couples have equal opportunity to establish parental rights as compared to their heterosexual counterparts, or else marriage equality remains somewhat superficial.

As mentioned before, laws and court rulings are still catching up with the twenty-first century. Recently, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous and dramatic ruling regarding the Full Faith & Credit Clause. The Court reversed the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision not to recognize a same-sex adoption decree issued by a Georgia court.  The ruling affirmed that adoption decrees issued by a court with jurisdiction over the matter in one state will be given “full faith and credit” in other states. The application of this decision to other areas of the law involving parental rights, including surrogacy, could have dramatic effects on the rights of same-sex couples.

In this modern American era, there’s no room for bigotry or hate. However, countering hatred is not sufficient to create equality for the LGBTQ community. As a nation, we must act proactively to take the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling one step further, in order to ensure that rights dovetailing with marriage, including parentage, are adequately addressed.