LGBT equality fight doesn’t stop with OK of gay marriage

By Jeanette Fritz

Illinois legalizing gay marriage was great news, but it didn’t signal the end of the fight for equality.

The country is slowly making its way to marriage equality, and adding another state to the list is what we need. Although it’s an important step, having gay marriage doesn’t solve every issue with equality.

“It is a positive direction toward making gay marriage a federal law versus a state law,” said Prism President Marc Romero Jr. Prism is a student organization that helps educate students about NIU’s LGBT community.

As a result of gay marriage being legalized in Illinois, I think the number of LGBT supporters is going to skyrocket in the state and in the country. Gay marriage will be recognized as more than civil unions so members and supporters of the LGBT community will feel equal and not discriminated against by their own state. Even those who don’t necessarily support gay marriage at the moment may have a change of heart. Aside from legalizing gay marriage, there are still other issues to pay attention to.

“I don’t agree with the time and resources spent on making [gay marriage] happen when they could be used in other areas,” Romero said. “The legalization is great for marriage equality, but there are more important things to focus on, like bullying.”

In fact, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth are far more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth, according to a 2011 study in Pediatrics, a medical journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the study, 21.5 percent of LGBT youths attempt suicide compared to 4.2 percent of heterosexual youth. The study also said the risk was 20 percent higher for LGBT youth in unsupportive environments.

Rejection is one of the biggest issues for LGBT people. Nearly 40 percent of people that homeless organizations provided services to were runaway and homeless LGBT youth, according to a 2012 Williams Institute study.

While Illinois legalizing gay marriage is a wonderful thing and we should be thinking about it at a national level, it should not be the only LGBT community issue we should focus on.

I hope those statistics of suicide and homelessness will go down as more adolescents of the LGBT community and society as a whole realize the LGBT community is being supported by the law.

Illinois and 14 other states have decided to move forward. It’s time the other 35 to do the same. Hopefully, more people will receive the equality we all deserve.