Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

The State of Gay

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

The State of Gay

Article excerpt

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld and expanded gay rights, but the question of how these decisions will impact the wide-ranging diversity among sexual minorities has yet to be determined. This paper focuses on the impact of these decisions on the State of Gay in the U.S., including those from an array of demographic, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural affiliations. The United States v. Windsor (570 U.S. 2013) and Hollingsworth, et al., v. Kristin M. Perry (570 U.S. 2013) decisions are also considered within the context of the global community, both how they were influenced by and how these court findings will in turn broadly impact these cultures. How these decisions were rooted within the context of marriage reform legislation in the 1970s, and how heterosexuals may well be significant beneficiaries of the rulings, is also discussed. The paper concludes with a dialogue on the paths toward continued legal, societal, and political reform within a global context, and how congruence between the State of Gay and Human Rights can be more fully realized.

All too often, when the term gay is used to refer to the portion of the U.S. population who is other than heterosexual, it implicitly acts to minimize the group to a singular dimension. In reality, the diversity amongst those identifying as gay is as diverse as those identifying as heterosexual. Cultural heritage, gender identification, sexual identification, familial relations, social mores, and numerous other factors are as strong a variable among homosexual couples as they are for heterosexual ones. To fully understand the potential impact of two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have upheld and expanded gay rights in America, it's important that this diversity is addressed. In fact, the United States v. Windsor (570 U.S. 2013) and Hollingsworth, et al., v. Kristin M. Perry (570 U.S. 2013) decisions may actually impact the heterosexual community to a greater extent than gays, and not only given that they represent a larger portion of the population.

Commonly referred to as the Rainbow Rulings, these cases significantly advanced gay rights, and civil rights in general. The Windsor ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, 1996), effectively rejecting the claim that marriage applies only to the union of a man and a woman. Further, it instated federal benefits to same-sex married couples and recognized that equal protection under the Fifth Amendment applies to all married persons regardless of gender. The Perry case, known also as Proposition 8, restored marriage equality in California, asserting that the U.S. federal interpretation of the terms spouse and marriage apply to both hetero- and same-sex unions (Westfall, 2013). These rulings promise to challenge our stereotypes about what it means to be gay, married, and a parent in the United States.

When assessing the implications of these rulings it would be inaccurate to infer that the impact on all gay individuals will play out exactly the same; a presumption common in the media. Lewin (2009) refers to this as the doctrine of singularity, wherein a stigmatized or transgressive identity is assumed to trump all other aspects of the individual. In discussing the potential impacts of these key court rulings, examples of gay diversity will be presented here along with the circumstances of traditional marriage that can be expected to change (Shulman et al., 2012; Adam, 2003). These shifts are rooted both in the U.S. culture as well as influenced by the global community (Glass et al., 2011). In the discussions that follow, the term gay will be used to encompass those in same-sex relationships who identify as such. While the research suggests some lifestyle differences between same-sex genders, those are outside the scope of the focus here. Additionally, the terms sex and gender are used interchangeably throughout.


Support for gay rights around the world has been one of the fastest growing social movements (Baumgartner and Mahoney, 2005) in the history of the world. …

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