Last Monday marked the two-year anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. At present, same-sex marriage can be performed in 22 countries, and many more recognize marriages performed elsewhere. However, homosexuality itself remains explicitly illegal in 72 countries, and even countries with marriage equality do not always ensure full rights to their LGBTIQ citizens. Many nations, with and without marriage equality, have not banned anti-LGBTIQ discrimination or conversion therapy, while others prohibit people from changing their gender marker or require exclusionary surgery and sterilization to be completed first. Meanwhile, LGBTIQ activists and advocates around the world question the emphasis placed on securing marriage, an institution historically entrenched in patriarchal structures, for LGBTIQ people--is marriage equality something worth fighting for?
Marriage equality is a complex issue, with opponents and advocates across nations and political dispositions. In order to delve into the intricacies of the issue and understand it more fully, I will produce a three-part series of posts, each focusing on a particular aspect of global marriage equality. I will compare the variations of LGBTIQ human rights in countries with and without same-sex marriage or civil unions, discuss global backlash to recent gains in marriage equality, and the benefits and drawbacks of the institution of marriage itself.
- Comparative Legislation. While the countries that have legalized same sex marriage are often hailed as havens to LGBTIQ people, marriage equality alone is not always a good litmus test to the quality of life provided to LGBTIQ people in a given country. While some nations legalize same sex marriage, yet have made no laws against discrimination or don’t allow same-sex parents to adopt, others have made changing gender markers exceptionally accessible to trans people while blocking marriage equality. Meanwhile, many nations recognize some kind of same-sex civil union, with their own variations on other LGBTIQ human rights. By comparing where countries are succeeding and failing in their protections of LGBTIQ human rights, I will attempt to break the myth that marriage equality is always the last hurdle to full equality or proof of a certain degree of progress. What other ways can we measure progress in the fight for LGBTIQ human rights? What other issues should be dealt with to provide meaningful change to LGBTIQ people?
- Backlash Against Marriage Equality. It is difficult to imagine a downside to legalizing same-sex marriage in a country that is ready for it. However, successful legalization in one country can result in harsh backlash in another. Indeed, after some nations legalize same-sex marriage, others respond by quickly produce legislation explicitly banning it. What happens in particularly restrictive and conservative countries when others expand LGBTIQ human rights? How can we guarantee marriage equality and human rights in some places without harming people in others?
- Why Marry? The institution of marriage has a long, complicated, and often repressive history. While extending the right to marry to same-sex couples allows more people access to essential state benefits, like health insurance and reproductive benefits, it also extends marriage’s complex legacy to new groups of people. That said, in countries that allow same-sex marriage, who chooses to marry, and why? Do same-sex civil unions, performed or recognized in over 20 countries, offer an acceptable compromise, or do they not go far enough? And for those that do not choose to marry or do not believe in the institution, where do they fall in the fight for marriage equality and other LGBTIQ human rights?
Throughout these in-depth investigations, I’ll also highlight the work that OutRight has done not only to expand marriage equality to those countries and regions that are primed for it, but also worked to meet other countries where they are and achieve other advances for LGBTIQ rights. I will work to uncover the patterns to the successes and complications of global marriage equality, and find its place in the expansion of all LGBTIQ human rights, for everyone, everywhere.
Published on June 27, 2017 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization