While I was happy to see Patrick Zabawa grapple with the concepts of respecting freedom of thought for all Americans in his recent column, I am concerned that the need for non-discrimination in employment and health care were not fairly addressed (The hypocrisy of gay activism, 04/16/2009). Non-discrimination in employment and health care are fundamental to protecting life and liberty for all Americans.
In 2004, Colonel Diane Schroer, a transwoman formerly of the United States Army, was denied employment at the Library of Congress because of her gender identity. In 2006, Charlene Strong was denied entrance to the emergency room to be with her dying partner of 10 years until a biological family member arrived and gave her permission. When it comes down to receiving medical services or getting a job, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and similarly identified people are not simply oppressing people with different beliefs. We are trying to live.
In terms of medical care specifically, doctors and other medical professionals cannot pick and choose which medical services to provide to which patients. Factors such as a patient’s sexual orientation are irrelevant to providing a medical procedure. Moreover, patients can’t be expected to go shopping for a hospital with doctors who share their beliefs in equal treatment. That luxury is not economically feasible for many.
In terms of employment, LGBT rights organizations are currently working on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which seeks to enact federal non-discrimination protections in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This act is necessary because many LGBT and similarly identified individuals are already employed — but under the current federal law, they could be fired tomorrow. Sexual orientation and gender identity are irrelevant factors when it comes to job performance. All Americans have a right to work according to their merits while also living open, lives. To suggest that LGBT rights organizations should only use persuasive means to this end is, once again, a luxury beyond many LGBT Americans.
When considering the struggles of LGBT citizens, I hope that all of us can look beyond the exclusive lens of marriage equality. Many LGBT Americans do not have the luxury of making marriage equality their top priority. In all parts of the U.S., regardless of individuals’ acceptance of who we are, we need to be able to work and we need to be able to receive medical care today.
School of Music sophomore