Obergefell v. Hodges – the landmark Supreme Court case that made same-sex marriage legal across the nation – is barely four years old.
In other words, the recognition that gay marriage is a fundamental, constitutional right is younger than a kindergartener. My dog is literally five years older than the constitutional protection of gay marriage.
But people seem to have forgotten their silence on the matter during these critical moments, now that “wokeness” is as easy as slapping some rainbows and glitter onto their products and photo ops – calling yourself an ally is no longer much of an inconvenience.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I sincerely doubt the middle-aged marketing manager at McDonald’s was a champion of gay rights before unveiling rainbow-colored French fry containers at last year’s pride in New York.
And Pride Parades, of course, have never been just a party – their very founding served as a means of protest, of knocking down closet doors held shut by a homophobic society – but it’s a lot easier to post #pride on a picture of a parade float than to call your senator about their gay rights track record.
This fall, in a series of three lawsuits on the issue of discriminatory hiring practices against LGBTQ+ workers, the nine Supreme Court members will stand once again to decide if gay people’s fundamental rights are worth legal protection.
Nine Justices – who are, as far as we know, all heterosexual – will decide if it’s legal to fire someone for a job they’re otherwise qualified for – over the sheer fact of being gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Where are all the allies now?
In a state where rainbow flags are almost as easy to find as a CVS or Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s easy to forget that LGBTQ+ rights have always been precarious. Gay marriage has only been legal in Massachusetts, after all, since 2004 – that’s shorter than the amount of time SpongeBob SquarePants has been on the air. Discrimination against transgender employees in Massachusetts was legal until as recently as 2011.
Gay rights have never been a given – and that’s why, yes, even in liberal Framingham, in liberal Massachusetts, continuing to speak out on LGBTQ+ rights still matters.
Just because it’s not right in our playing field doesn’t mean it isn’t of critical importance. The financial stability of an enormous number of people, the American Bar Association estimates 6.5 million employees in the US identify as LGBTQ+, could be legally denied.
And yes, Massachusetts has protections for queer employees – but such legal protections were only possible through the outspokenness of heterosexual men and women in power.
It’s almost instinctive to dismiss the problems of a transgender woman in Oklahoma or a gay man in Alabama – out of sight, out of mind, right?
But your voice has power – with historical precedence, too.
Remember the clerk in Kentucky who refused to give out marriage licenses to gay couples? The public outcry that followed – from people across the country and the world, not just Kentucky – was instrumental in making sure her “religious objections” argument didn’t fly as an excuse for state-sanctioned homophobia.
And, undoubtedly, the massive protests outside the Supreme Court during Obergefell v. Hodges weren’t without impact.
“Call your senators” is almost a cliché at this point – but they genuinely want to hear from the populace. And if they get enough messages, they can’t simply pretend they don’t hear you anymore. We need public pressure, and multiple voices standing against homophobia.
Even if they are not successful, they will serve as a strong message to the international community – and the people at risk – that not everyone in the country stands to support legalized prejudice.
Being an ally is important now more than ever.