Gay rights have come a long way—but have far to go

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

Celestino-HorsemanJune is Gay Pride Month. If the number of people who attended and participated in the celebration is any indication, the size of the community and its supporters is impressive. As the month comes to an end, and the fight for equal treatment continues, I think it is appropriate to reflect upon how far we, as a society, have advanced in recognizing the personal rights and freedoms of the gay community. True, we still have a long way to go, but maybe the efforts ahead will not seem as daunting.

I am writing this on my birthday, and without going into how many years it has been since I was in college (let’s just say that, if a good bottle of wine aged over that time, it would be quite expensive), I can remember quite well when gay friends had to be closeted if they wanted to move freely in their lives and careers without prejudice, hate and discrimination. I remember friends who lived in terror that someone would “out” them to their family, their work and/or their community. If I had a dollar for every tear that was shed on my shoulder by friends who whispered that all they wanted was to be able to marry and have children and to be able to live openly, I would be rich. At that time, all I was able to offer was comfort and the commitment that we would work together for change.

And indeed, change has finally come. Gay marriage has been recognized. We have an openly gay man—Mayor Pete Buttigieg from Indiana, believe it or not!—running for president with the support and assistance of his loving husband. We have openly gay elected officials like Zach Adamson, vice president of the City-County Council, and most recently, our first openly gay state senator, J.D. Ford. Openly gay people hold some of the highest executive positions in corporate America. And, having two mommies or two daddies is becoming a familiar sight. Young gay students feel supported enough to come out while still in school.

The fight has not been easy. As one of the attorneys who fought for gay marriage, I am disappointed that the state of Indiana opposed it (the Mike Pence days of RFRA). I am also one of the lawyers fighting to have the state of Indiana recognize both married lesbians as parents of a child conceived by artificial insemination and, again, find opposition from Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. But right now, there is an injunction in place and birth certificates are being issued so these children are being born to two parents and not just one parent, as Hill would prefer to require. And I, like many others, worry about how the new U.S. Supreme Court will view gay and transgender rights.

The biggest cause of change has been young people who are now in the position to effect change. I fully expect that change will come fast as the next generation takes control of our Legislature, Congress and the courts. Most private-sector, large corporations are already leading by example.

The rights of gays, lesbians, transgender persons and other non-traditional conforming persons is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, and while the battle is being nobly fought, it is not over. In the meantime, let’s remember the victories to date and celebrate the gay community and all the contributions it makes daily.•

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Celestino-Horseman is an attorney and represents the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus on the Democratic State Central Committee. Send comments to [email protected]

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