The Ideal America VS the Real America

In the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, it is evident that Jefferson believes in equal rights for the people, disregarding color or sex.

Jefferson states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”(Declaration of Independence: A Transcription)

In brief, Thomas Jefferson believes that as individuals we are equal, and we have the right to happiness as well as liberty and life. Jefferson also believes that there are obvious truths that shouldn’t have to be explained, in God’s eye everyone (man or women) is created equal and are given certain rights that cannot be taken from a person. Unalienable rights are very well known by many Americans today. They portray what many people see as the Ideal America. We like to think of America as the land of the free, equality, and justice; unfortunately, this is not the case. However, Jefferson also states:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence: A Transcription)

Jefferson explains that whenever any form of government fails to protect the rights of its people, the people have the right to challenge the government for equality. In fact, there have been several movements to try and change the government to gain equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) members and make America Ideal. Above all, in the real America, LGBT members are being denied their right to live a safe and fearless life, they are being denied their right to being treated equally, as well as their right to pursue their happiness.

We believe that America stands for freedom and equality that everyone is entitled to, but despite that, we continue to live with issues in our society that contradict what we believe America should stand for. “In 1998, two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, abducted Matthew Shepard and drove him to a remote area where he was tied to a split-rail fence, beaten severely, and left to die in the cold of the night.”(Worthen “Matthew Shepard” 2018) This is an example of one of many hate crimes that have taken place in America. They are beaten, tortured and even killed. In the Ideal America, everyone should be able to love whomever they choose. Unlike heterosexual couples; LGBT couples, can’t show affection in public without fearing harassment or assault. They are forced to deny and hide who they are in order to remain safe. According to CNN, Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, “More than 77,000 hate-crime incidents were reported by the FBI between 1998 and 2007, or ‘nearly one hate crime for every hour of every day over the span of a decade.”

Over the years hate crimes against LGBT continue to occur and they are not being ignored. Matthew Shepard’s murder case attracted a lot of media attention so when Shepard’s two murderers weren’t charged with a hate crime it caused LGBT supporters and member all over America to take a stand. Supporters of the LGBT community came together and held protests, vigils, and even made calls to protect victims of hate crimes. Shepard lost his life at a young age because two men were against the idea that another man could love another man. A little over 11 years after Matthew’s death, on October 28, 2009, Judy Shepard stood at the ceremony where President Barack Obama gave a speech for the LGBT community and signed The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which makes assaulting an individual based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or ethnicity a federal crime. Despite that steps have been taken to help protect LGBT members against hate crimes, hate crimes continue to occur and there are advocates from the LGBT community who feel like progress isn’t coming fast enough. LGBT community members should be able to live their life just as any heterosexual person, without having to hide or fear for their own lives. But in reality, LGBT members are still being denied their right to live a safe and fearless life, they are being denied their right to being treated equally, as well as their right to pursue their happiness. In fact, they also face discrimination in the workplace.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates created a 2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet to show how discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) affects LGBT individuals and how it denies them the equality they deserve as human beings. According to Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, “Over one quarter (27%) of transgender people who held or applied for a job in the last year reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion due to their gender identity.”(2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet) In an Ideal America being an American should come with being free and being able to work where one pleases. Unfortunately, that is not the case if one is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. Being part of the LGBT community comes with fearing being fired from a job or not even getting hired at all. Many LGBT tend to hide their true identity at their current workplace or do not disclose for fear of being fired, not hired or discriminated against. Reports show that more than 75% of employees who are transgender tend to take extra steps to avoid being mistreated at work. “Nearly 1 in 10 LGBT employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.52.8% of LGBT employees report that discrimination negatively affected their work environment.”(2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet) Not only does being treated unequally affect the individual being discriminated against but it also creates a negative work environment for other employees and LGBT individuals who have not come out yet. Unfortunately, even though not being treated equal is denying individuals rights, no federal laws have been passed to stop employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. However, 22 states do prohibit discrimination against LGBT by statute law. In an Ideal America, LGBT employees should only need to focus on making the most of their talents, skills, and ingenuity, instead of constantly worrying about getting fired or mistreated. Unfortunately, in the real America, LGBT members are still being denied the right to live a safe and fearless life, they are being denied their right to being treated equally, as well as their right to pursue their happiness.

In Keegan O’Brien’s article “How Our Protests Won Marriage Equality,” O’Brien explains how over the years the LGBT community has fought to gain their right to marry and be happy but despite years of progress LGBT community members are still faced with much negativity and setbacks. In his article, O’Brien said Vice President Mike Pence stated, “Gay Marriage leads to “the deterioration of marriage and the family” and “societal collapse.” Keeping same-sex couples from marrying isn’t discrimination, but simply enforcing “God’s idea.” In the statement Mike Pence made towards same-sex marriage he claims that keeping LGBT community members from marriage is not discrimination it’s just enforcing “God’s idea” but isn’t it “God’s idea” that every man and women are created equally.

Therefore, they should be treated as such and denying the LGBT community the opportunity to marry the love of their life is denying them their right to pursue happiness. In September of 1996, for federal reasons, marriage was defined as a union between man and women in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was signed by Bill Clinton in response to Hawaii Supreme Court taking steps to start legalizing same-sex marriage. Despite anti-gay Republican Gov. Mitt Romney attempting to delay the ruling for same-sex marriage, on November 18, 2003, Massachusetts became the very first state to make same-sex marriage legal and on May 17, 2004, the first state that issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Massachusetts’ victory inspired people all over the country to protest in favor of marriage equality for LGBT members. Disregarding protests for marriage equality, in 2004, 11 states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage bringing the number of anti-gay states to 38.

“In June 2008, the California Supreme Court overturned its previous ruling and legalized same-sex marriage. Thousands of couples began receiving marriage licenses. But the victory was short-lived. On Election Night in November, as the country was celebrating the election of the first African American president, Californians learned that Proposition 8, a ballot measure funded by the Religious Right and Mormon Church, had passed, overturning the state Supreme Court ruling and once again banning same-sex marriage.” (How our protests won marriage equality)

The fight to gain equal marriage rights for the LGBT faced many setbacks, amendments and bills being passed to ban same-sex marriage to then have those same rulings overturned to legalize it again, to have it banned once more in the same year, so many hearts were broken. It set fear in many LGBT couples’ hearts, to think they might never be able to marry and be happy like every heterosexual couples in America. On the same night the banning was passed, thousands of people flooded city streets in California and all around the country to protest Proposition 8 and fight for marriage equality. As the anger built due to Prop 8, the movement spread rapidly over the internet and several marches were held, the National Equality March was the turning point in the battle for marriage equality. In the years that follow many states began to legalize same-sex marriage and finally, on June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage became law in all 50 states under the 14th Amendment.

The fight to pursue happiness for the LGBT community was long, hard and at times heartbreaking but after several years of being denied marriage equality, the LGBT finally gained their rights to marry who they choose. Despite years of progress, LGBT community members still face much negativity and setbacks due to there still being individuals who are against same-sex marriage, like Mike Pence. One day there will be a time in which discrimination and hate towards the LGBT has stopped, same-sex marriage won’t be frowned upon, and the LGBT members can live a happy and a peaceful life with the person they love, but until then the LGBT members have to live in the real America, where LGBT members are being denied the right to live a safe and fearless life, denied their right to being treated equally, as well as their right to pursue their happiness.

Ultimately, it is evident Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, believes every person is created equally and therefore every person deserves equality, disregarding race, gender identity and sexual orientation, and no person should be denied their right to Life, Liberty, or the Pursuit of Happiness. However, equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals, is practically nonexistent. LGBT members are being denied their right to live a safe and fearless life, they are being denied their right to being treated equally in their workplace, as well as their right to pursue their happiness. Nonetheless, they live in fear, more often than not forced to deny or hide who they are in order to stay safe from individuals who believe men should only lay with women. In CNN’s article,”Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill into Law”, CNN reported, there was more than 77,000 hate-crime incidents reported between 1998 and 2007. Not only do LGBT individuals have to fear for their safety but also fear being fired from their job, denied employment, as well as being mistreated in the workplace resulting from sexual orientation discrimination and/or gender identity discrimination thus, denying LGBT individuals the right to be treated equal.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates acknowledges, in their 2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet, that in the previous year 27% of transgender individuals were fired, denied employment, or denied a promotion due to gender identity discrimination. As if fearing for one’s safety or being denied equality in the workplace isn’t enough, LGBT community members once were also being denied the right to pursue their own happiness by not being able to marry who they love because of God’s idea for marriage. O’brien confirms in his article, How Our Protests Won Marriage Equality, even the Vice President of the US feels same- sex marriage makes marriage lose its value and doesn’t believe denying same-sex couples from marriage equality is discrimination. Despite people being against same-sex marriage, same-sex couples now have marriage equality but still face much negativity. In short, it is evident that even though the Ideal America portrays equality and liberty for all, that is not the case for many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals. With this in mind, imagine for a second, walking down the street and being harrassed, beaten, tortured or even killed, not because you did something wrong, but only because someone saw you give your partner a goodbye kiss. No one steps in to help you, no one’s does anything because they saw the Vice President of the US stating it is not discrimination but enforcing God’s idea.

Citations

  1. “2017 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet.” Out & Equal, 27 Feb. 2019, outandequal.org/2017-workplace-equality-fact-sheet/.
  2. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.
  3. “How Our Protests Won Marriage Equality.” SocialistWorker.org, socialistworker.org/2017/06/14/how-our-protests-won-marriage-equality.
  4. Lohr, David. “Report Shows Massive Increase In Anti-LGBTQ Violence Since Trump Took Office.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Jan. 2018, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbtq-violence-trump_us_5a625035e4b002283002897b.
  5. “Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill into Law.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2009, www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/10/28/hate.crimes/.
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