Four Ways our Government Regulates Sexuality, Beyond the Same-Sex Marriage Ban

groom and groom wedding cake toppertwo women on a wedding cake topper

This week, we're all hoping that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of all that is fair and good and affirm the rights of gay and lesbian people to be married.

But while we've got our thumbs on champagne corks, anxiously waiting to celebrate, let's just take a breath for a minute and recognize that while marriage equality is just major step forward toward equality for same-sex couples, it's just a step toward equality for all in America. We've got to look beyond marriage to the other ways gender, sexuality, and love will still be regulated by the government, even if gays can finally tie the knot.

Bitch development director Kate Lesniak was on Al Jazeera's "inside Story" last night discussing who marriage excludes. As she said, "There are people left behind at all times." 

Here are just four ways our laws still discriminate against folks based on their gender, sexuality, and marital status. 

  1. Tax law forces single people to pay more. Not everyone wants marriage and a white picket fence, but our tax system offers numerous benefits and deductions to married couples, leaving single people paying significantly more in taxes every year. There's a great scene in the Royal Tenenbaums where a love-struck accountant (Danny Glover) recommends the family matriarch get divorced "for tax purposes" but unless your husband is the a bankrupt Gene Hackman, the government rewards people financially when if they decide to get married.
  2. It's not illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in most states. Unlike age, race, and sex, orientation is not a federally protected class—that means it's not illegal nationwide to refuse to rent a house to someone because they're gay or to fire them because they're transgender. Several states have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their non-discrimination laws and people in places without the laws have successfully won discrimination lawsuits anyway, but it's a patchwork system.
  3. It's harder for women to get immigration visas than men. Rules that link immigration applications to work outside the home and make immigrants wait years (even decades) to reunite with family bias the system against women, who are more likely to work raising children and caring for family members. Same-sex partners are currently also not recognized as "family" under immigration law.
  4. State laws limit basic women's healthcare. Reproductive healthcare, like access to birth control and safe abortions, is an essential part of basic healthcare for women. But numerous states laws make it so only women with enough money can access birth control. Restrictive abortion laws like the one North Dakota's governor signed today regulate women's bodies in a way that directly creates inequality. 

There are new ridiculous laws proposed every day that regulate sex and gender—like Arizona's idea to make using the "wrong gender" bathroom illegal. Let's hope we'll be popping the champagne soon to celebrate the fact that support for queer relationships is now a mainstream value. But we can't let ourselves slip into a hungover stupor, thinking the government has stopped policing sexuality.

Bitch Media publishes the award-winning quarterly magazine, Bitch:Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

2 comments have been made. Post a comment.

For all

In the building where my lectures are there are no men's or women's bathrooms, only bathrooms. I like that.

/Too tired to say anything interesting

Two big fears that I hope

Two big fears that I hope won't come true.

1) I hope we don't lose sight of the big picture, nor that we lose momentum. Like this article points out, this is a step towards equality, and much more must be done.

2) I hope we don't end up even more divided after this. It's common for movements to end up disintegrating after a subsection of them receive benefits. Marriage doesn't impact everyone, and forcing folks to marry to gain access to certain privileges is unconscionable. So what this means is that one group of us will have a set of benefits that another won't. I sincerely hope that we can count on our allies who have those benefits to continue to support us through future struggles.

That said, this is a particularly fantastic moment to be alive. And I'm looking forward to our eventual victory.