By Eli Winter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states caps off an historic time for the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
In a decision released Friday, justices voted 5-4 that gay marriage is legal nationwide. Media coverage generally reflected American society's increasing support of LGBT issues, but remained sharply divided in some circles.
Evidence of the gradual acceptance of transgender Americans' into mainstream society emerged earlier this month when Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender on the cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair.
The magazine cover, which shows Jenner wearing a short dress, makeup and a wig, was met with both acclaim and animosity. Laverne Cox, a transgender actress on the TV series Orange Is The New Black, wrote that Jenner's appearance in the magazine was a watershed moment for transgender Americans, but that much work needed to be done in the face of the widespread discrimination they face daily.
Meanwhile, Matt Walsh, a blogger for The Blaze, a conservative website, argued that Jenner was delusional, a modern-day wolf in sheep's clothing.
Shortly afterward, a jury in New Jersey ruled that so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which attempts to change gay and lesbians' sexual preferences, was consumer fraud – the first such ruling to be made in court.
But the victory for LGBT activists in the Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right overshadowed the other advances.
Like media coverage of Jenner's coming out, most columnists accepted the decision. Conservative websites questioned its constitutionality, whether doing so directly or referring to marriage with quotation marks, as to suggest that gay marriages are invalid.
Support of gay marriage has been growing leading up to the decision. In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time, more Americans supported gay marriage than opposed it.
The victory comes at a fitting time.
Saturday, June 27th, will see LGBT Americans and allies marching in pride parades across the nation. The annual parades mark the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which were a watershed moment for gay Americans, provoking them to mobilize and become increasingly vocal about improving their rights.
Progress on gay rights has been steady, but slow. In 1972, the American Psychiatric Association removed the term "homosexuality" from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The next year, an arson during a meeting of Los Angeles' Metropolitan Community Church, known for its large number of LGBT congregants claimed 32 lives.
Recent years have seen the Supreme Court rule the Defense of Marriage Act invalid and take small steps towards legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
Progress has been even slower for transgender Americans, who only saw the term "gender identity disorder" replaced with "gender dysphoria" in the most recent edition of the DSM, which was published in 2013.
Even though the decision will likely widen the gulf between those who oppose legalizing gay marriage, primarily on religious grounds, and those who support legalizing it for the economic and human rights benefits they argue gay couples deserve, some activists are trying to bridge the gap.
The most notable such activist is Matthew Vines, an LGBT rights activist from Kansas known for his work to make churches more inclusive of LGBT Christians.
Vines wrote a book, God and the Gay Christian, and started the nonprofit organization The Reformation Project.
Conservative Christians argue that his writings are invalid, but the Pew Research Center reports that, in the last decade, religious support of gay marriage has gradually increased at the same time fewer people attend church on a weekly basis. More and more Americans, according to the Center, also think religion is becoming less influential to Americans.
But even as LGBT Americans are becoming more accepted and gaining more rights, discrimination against them remains high in many areas, in large part due to disagreements over religious doctrine.
LGBT Americans are more likely to be homeless, impoverished, and have poorer health than other Americans and much of the reason can be traced back to lingering discrimination in housing, employment and health care.
Discrimination is especially high among transgender Americans, who experience much more severe and frequent discrimination than sexual minorities.
Decisive action needs to be made to reduce and eliminate such discrimination. The Supreme Court's ruling, along with Jenner's coming out, shows that – now more than ever – society supports taking such action.
We can only hope that such progress will be actual, not illusory.
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