We have stated before that same-sex couples enjoy all of the benefits and are held to the same obligations as male-female couples. And while that is true, it’s also true that same-sex couples do face unique challenges.
Challenges faced by same-sex couples
Even though the Constitution and recent changes to the law would have us believe otherwise, same sex couples still face discrimination in both overt and covert ways.
Here are some of the most common ways same-sex couples are treated differently:
- Religious institutions. Many faiths, churches and congregations have yet to treat same-sex couples fairly. Same-sex couples can face discrimination when seeking a church for their wedding or joining a church. There are many, many churches that are welcoming.
- On the job. While it is against the law to discriminate based on sexual orientation, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t implicit bias and subtle forms of harassment happening. Some employers do not take the steps necessary to ensure equal treatment and benefits.
- Donating tissue, organs or blood. In the past, men who have sex with men in particular have been prohibited from donating due to the fear of HIV, hepatitis and other complications. The Red Cross has recently addressed this issue and opened up the donation process.
- Housing. Same-sex couples have experienced discrimination when trying to rent or buy an apartment, condo or home. In many areas it is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent apartments or houses to people based on gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity.
- Incarceration visits. These are only legal for same-sex couples in four states: Washington, New York, Connecticut and California. They are banned in Mississippi and New Mexico
- Medical care. LGBTQI couples have long suffered discrimination in obtaining health care and have often been denied emergency medical help and visitation rights.
- Serving our country. Before 1993 gays and lesbians were not allowed to be openly gay and serve. Repealed in 2010, LGBTQI people have served openly. But that does not mean there was no harassment or discrimination in the ranks.
- Adoption. While same-sex couples can now adopt, policies vary from place to place. Once married, same-sex couples cannot legally be denied the right to adopt from public organizations. This does not mean that private institutions do not still deny same-sex couples a child.
- Courts. While we want to believe that the court is free from prejudice, we know bias exists. Sometimes this shows up in the court process.
- Hate crimes. LGBTQI couples still face hate crimes even after the Mathew Sheppard Act was passed. The aim of this act is to seek to protect people from harassment and assault. No one, no couple, and no family should have to live in fear.
While we all want to treat others with the respect and validation each of us needs, we have a long way to go. Awareness and discussion are helpful. Family members, friends, coworkers and bystanders also need to step in and step up when they see or hear discrimination or harassment happening.