Has DOMA distracted us from other issues?


After the US Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional, many human rights groups have commented that other LGBT issues have failed to gain steam. Advocates for the transgender community and HIV/AIDS awareness groups are finding it harder to receive well-deserved attention from media outlets.

“I am big fan of the work of the LGBT movement, but I’m really cynical about the prioritization within it,” said the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling. “I worry about a movement that has so disproportionately prioritized marriage. […] It’s been a good tool for educating the rest of the public, but that’s the problem—it’s educating everyone else that marriage is all we care about.”

CenterLink, a coalition of 200 community centers that serves to help the LGBT community, weighed on the growing concern.

“I wish we were spending a little more time working on these other issues and not just making marriage the centerpiece,” said CenterLink spokesperson Terry Stone.

In 2013, four states approved marriage equality and the Supreme Court, in a nationwide decision, overturned DOMA and Prop 8, a feat which could have had a different outcome without the outpouring of public support and news coverage. As a result, the energy to combat HIV/AIDS has subdued. According to a joint letter signed by 35 activists and leaders, while gay and bisexual men only make up two percent of the population, they comprised over 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2010.

“Despite these alarming statistics, which have galvanized our community in the past, the HIV epidemic has seemed to fall by the wayside,” the letter stated. “Many in our community have simply stopped talking about the issue. This must change.”

As one of the groups that signed the letter, Lambda Legal spoke for the attention on advocating for HIV/AIDS.

“People don’t want to talk about disease, about death, about racial or socio-economic inequalities,” Lambda’s HIV project director Scott Schoettes said. “HIV is sometimes an inconvenient reminder of all those things. We need to press to make sure it continues to be a part of the agenda.”

Amongst the companies receiving criticism is the Human Rights Campaign, which has made marriage equality their top priority.

“No one thinks we spend enough time on their issues,” HRC vice president Fred Sainz said in a press release. “Often times there will be constituencies that don’t feel satisfied, and that’s completely legitimate. We can and should do better for them.”

Advocating for the transgender community has decreased as well.

“It would be unrealistic to say all of the problems that marginalized transgender issues have just disappeared,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights policy director Maya Rupert. “But there’s been a conscious effort to make sure the movement is really focusing on the needs of transgender people.”

Other LGBT issues that need attention are immigration reform as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“It doesn’t help you so much if you can get married and then get fired because of that,” Lambda Legal’s legal director, Jon Davidson, said in a press release.


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