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FRANSEN: Same-sex progress does not mean full acceptance

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elena color sidedThe U.S. Supreme Court chose Monday not to hear or decide on five same-sex marriage bans that state courts already ruled against. With this inaction, the marriage of gay couples is now legal in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin, with five other states likely to follow.

This decision means that 25 states, and possibly more, will allow same-sex marriage, after a long and hard-fought battle over marriage as a civil right. Reactions from LGBTQ rights groups and liberals are optimistic, with many saying it is just a matter of time before all states recognize gay marriage and to do so is to be on the right side of history. Support for same-sex marriage is a growing trend, with a Gallup poll showing 55 percent of respondents in support of same-sex couples’ marriage validity and rights, with 42 percent against.

However, while the decision recognizes gay marriage as valid and grants individuals the same benefits of those in “traditional marriages,” ranging from taxes to medical accommodations, the progression of same-sex marriage does not clear the way for a U.S. society that is fully accepting of gay and lesbian men and women.

The same-sex marriage fight’s focus has been on achieving equality and recognition alongside traditional marriages. The general public has been in favor of this, or has at least come to accept its inevitability, because it is an easy way to appease LGBTQ people. It seems like society is saying, give them marriage and they will stop complaining about how we treat and represent them.

If you think about it, the mainstream depiction of gay couples is usually two older men or women who are committed in a partnership, with kids and a white, middle-class lifestyle. The photos that accompany news stories all show a very particular kind of gay or lesbian individual which further solidifies how we generalize LGBTQ people. From a recent Cheerios commercial to Modern Family’s Cam and Mitchell, gay people are usually depicted as part of a couple. This is the result of the idea that gay people are good only in committed pairs, so they cannot make other people gay or corrupt other people. We can start to pretend they are just like a traditional couple.

While it is deemed progressive for the media to market or portray same-sex couples at all, what is shown is not the full experience of the gay and lesbian community. Not all gay people are white, middle-aged, middle-class people who want to get married. But for mainstream society, to accept gay people means to accept these characteristics as true.

Many hardships continue for LGBTQ communities, from high incidences of teenage suicide and depression to job discrimination. People from different social groups experience these phenomena in different ways, which further complicates how they are addressed effectively. These issues are not solved by the legalization of same-sex marriage and there is a great need to continue working on these issues. To say the great fight for LGBTQ rights is in its last victorious rounds would be to ignore the many problems still facing gay peoples. It would be like saying women had equal rights since the 19th Amendment; there is more than enough evidence in our culture, our economy and our political sphere to prove that wrong.

Sure, we can take the SCOTUS indecision to mean progress is continuous, but it is important to take a step back from the microscopic view of LGBTQ goals as only about same-sex marriage and acknowledge how there is a whole lot more that needs to change. When it comes to these issues, we cannot be cryptically indecisive or think change is going to come eventually. In the general populace’s mindset, nothing would ever progress and our conceptions would never develop. If we are to have equal rights, we need to be proactive about changing this mindset and seeing the bigger picture.

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