Term Paper: Cilvil Rights

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¶ … gay/lesbian rights and how gays are treated like second-class citizens in this country. Gays and lesbians face social stigma and bigotry, and face many of the same civil rights issues that blacks faced four decades ago in our country. America prides itself on being an open and free democracy with room for everyone, but gays and lesbians are largely left out of that notion, proving American is not as democratic as it would like to believe.

In America, the "perfect" idea of life is to grow up, marry, buy a home, have children, and live happily ever after. The trouble is, if you are a gay or lesbian in America today, few of those options are open to you, due to prejudice, biased laws, and gross misunderstanding on the part of a majority of Americans. Gays and lesbians are fighting their own civil rights battle today, just as blacks did in the 1960s, and it is time Americans stopped denigrating gays and begin giving them credit for their accomplishments and the rights they, like all Americans, deserve.

Many people may think that the fight for gay/lesbian rights is not really a big problem in America, but in 2000, there were 594,301 reported same-sex partner households in the country, and today, there must be even more (Editors, 2008). As of 2003, there are only eight American states offering domestic partner benefits for gay couples, and only a handful of employers offer domestic partner health benefits (Editors, 2008). Thus, gay and lesbian couples, although they are often equally or even more committed than heterosexual couples, cannot receive the benefits most married couples take for granted, simply because of their lifestyle. In many cases, gay couples have been together for decades, and have made a strong and loving commitment to each other, and yet, they are unable to qualify for even the most basic benefits to ensure their health, longevity, and peace of mind. They are being punished for their sexual orientation, in a country that prides itself on being a country that accepts all, and that is wrong.

Health benefits are certainly not the only way gays are discriminated against in America today. Even the most committed gay couple is not allowed to marry in this country, even though many other countries, including Canada, have legalized gay and lesbian marriages. It is sad, and even appalling, that gays must travel over the border to legitimize their unions, and then, those unions are not recognized in this country. Other countries are far more accepting of alternative lifestyles, and it paints America and Americans in a bad light. In addition, not being able to marry is not only unfair to gays; it carries several other issues that affect gays throughout their lives. For example, because they cannot marry, their partners are not eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, so if one partner is injured, disabled, or dies; the other is not eligible for their spousal benefits. There are similar issues with life insurance and other financial areas, as well, and this is unfair to a couple that might have been far more committed and in love than many heterosexual couples.

Because America will not accept gay marriage, there are many other avenues that are not open to gays that are open to other Americans. For example, adoption laws favor heterosexual couples over gay couples, and three states, Florida, Mississippi, and Utah, will not allow gay or same-sex couples to adopt at all (Editors, 2008). Gays who want to serve in the military have to hide their sexual orientation or face discharge, and many gays face hate crimes and other violence from a misunderstanding and critical society. Being gay in America is difficult, much more difficult than it needs to be, and there are numerous social and personal issues that gays face every day that most Americans would never put up with. Gays are where blacks were 40 years or more ago in this country, and they are discriminated against just as badly as blacks were at that time. It is not fair, and as Americans, we should stand up and speak out against these injustices, because we are supposed to be a free and democratic society, and this issue clearly shows we are not.

Finally, there are numerous issues that face aging gays in our country, as well. As mentioned, gay couples are not eligible for spousal benefits. In addition, partners cannot make medical decisions for their gay partners. A legal writer notes, "A life partner is not legally empowered to make medical and end-of-life decisions for their partner unless there are very clear directions in advanced directives or the partner is given power of attorney to make decisions" (Quam, 2004, p. 150). Even with a power of attorney, there can be legal problems with these decisions, especially if a family member steps in and takes over. There are similar legal problems with pension plans, with adopted children of gay parents, and many other areas in life that most Americans do not have to worry about.

Solutions to these problems are many and varied. Americans have to become more tolerant, and laws should be made to help gays maintain and gain their own civil rights. There are several states that prohibit discrimination in hiring practices against gays and lesbians, but all states should have laws to that effect, and gays should be allowed to marry and gain the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy, including health benefits, and spousal support, life insurance, and pensions. Adoption should be easier for gays, and they should be able to live and work in harmony with others. We need to elect more gay politicians so more gay-friendly laws can be established, and we need to support gay activist groups who are fighting for gay rights across the country. Author Wyman continues, "Moreover, as more gay people get elected to office, they climb the political ladder, where they have even greater influence" (Wyman, 2004, p. 102). First, we have to change the perception of the American people, and then, we have to change the laws to give gays the same rights that other Americans often take for granted. Another way activists are trying to change laws is by aligning with other groups. Another writer notes, "Pride in Our Union's mission is to bring together gay rights and workers' rights in one powerful alliance. In the process, says ESPA spokesman Joe Tarver, LGBT people are 'finding out that labor is not the homophobic group of blue-collar workers that a lot of people think it was'" (Weinstein, 2007, p. 12). Finding unique solutions like this is the only way gay rights are actually going to come true in this country.

For aging gays, there should be social agencies and even housing that is geared to aging gay and lesbian residents, and there should be more support from the community for aging gays and lesbians. In addition, there should be fair laws for all married couples, whether they are gay or not, and laws should be created that save their partners and children from financial and emotional ruin when they die. Finally, equality in employment should be a right for all gays. One gay rights activist found that employment might be one of the ways gays can gain rights more easily. Another author writes, "Concerned that 176 of the nation's Fortune 500 companies didn't include sexual orientation language in their nondiscrimination policies, Malcom Lazin decided to take matters into his own hands" (Caldwell, 2004, p. 62). He wrote letters to the companies, and in most cases, they responded by changing their employment practices.

In conclusion, gays in America today are fighting a long-term fight over civil rights that should not be an issue. Gays are treated as second-class citizens in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cilvil Rights.  (2008, March 13).  Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cilvil-rights/159434

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"Cilvil Rights."  Essaytown.com.  March 13, 2008.  Accessed July 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cilvil-rights/159434.