Arming Our Allies
Despite LGBT concerns being on the news, in magazines and everywhere you look, there are still people who don’t realize some basic facts. Such as the big fact that current civil rights legislation does not protect LGBT people. We can be fired from our jobs, denied custody of our children, not allowed to rent apartments (or be evicted) and we have no legal recourse in most places.
For many LGBT people, there are still real fears and possible consequences to coming out that make some of us choose to stay closeted. It is to you, my closeted brothers and sisters, that I direct this in particular.
Some of you have told me that you wish that you could do things to help and you feel frustrated and impotent. There are things you can do, even if you aren’t comfortable writing on a national website or being interviewed on local news or writing letters to the editor of your newspaper. Among the people to whom you are already out, there are very likely misconceptions that you can help to clear up.
Perhaps your friends or family members don’t realize that it is legal to discriminate against you in many ways. Tell them about it. Perhaps they don’t understand that marriage is more than a religious ceremony and has financial impact on our lives. You probably know quite a bit and can talk about the legal benefits of marriage that we are denied, even if we live in a state that allows us to marry. The Defense of Marriage Act means that the federal government does not recognize those marriages. We can't receive Social Security survivors benefits or inherit property, for example. There are countless others.
Chances are great a number of our allies to do not realize our families are at risk since only one person in an LGBT couple is allowed to be the legal adoptive parent in most states that allow LGBT people to adopt. Most heterosexual couples worry about what will happen to their children if both of them die but rarely what will happen if only one of them does. That’s a real concern for many LGBT families, especially if the legal parent’s family isn’t supportive. Even if they are, grief does wild things to people and the child still runs the risk of losing both parents.
While we all can’t be the ones who are visibly queer and make a lot of noise, each of us has some influence among those who love us. Use that influence to be sure that they know the facts. Ask them to also tell people, if things come up in conversation. Enlist their help in making sure that all Americans know that LGBT rights aren’t “special rights.” They are the basic human rights we should all have.
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