It often takes one landmark decision for people to start rallying around a certain issue.
For example, it was last summer when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right, effectively legalizing it and thus ordering all states to acknowledge gay couples who request marriage licenses (although, don’t tell that to one deplorable Kentucky clerk).
On the eve of that decision, and in the days following, people were voicing their overwhelming support for same-sex couples, even going as far to overlay their Facebook pictures with the colors associated with gay pride.
I’m not saying that most people never cared about the issue before the Supreme Court ruling, but it shows it takes a major event to really galvanize the average person into advocacy.
Although if you ask any homosexual in America, they’ll tell you that there’s still a long way to go until they truly are on equal footing under the law.
And now, as we approach the summer of 2016, eyes are turning towards another group of people who, while gradually gaining more and more support, still face severe oppression in our country: transgenders.
The story of Einar Wegener, dramatized in the recent film The Danish Girl, shows us that people have been surgically altering their bodies for 100 years to switch genders, and yet, it’s not until now that they’re really being accepted into the mainstream. There is estimated to be about 700,000 transgenders in the U.S., or 0.3 percent of the adult population.
While there’s no major Supreme Court ruling upcoming regarding transgenders, people forget that there are lots of decisions made on the local and state level that set early precedents and can create significant burdens on the lives of many people.
Which is what made what happened in South Dakota earlier this week that much more encouraging.
Many states right now are crafting legislation to disallow transgenders, and particularly transgender youths, from being able to use the bathroom of the gender that they identify with. In South Dakota, the first such bill was passed by the state’s Republican-majority Senate and House and sent to the governor for approval.
After a week’s worth of deliberation, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed it, citing that it did “not address any pressing issue” facing the state, and could cause legal problems moving forward, since it would contradict the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX.
Anyway, this was really important because it’s the first major decision of its kind. Had it been passed, it might have streamlined similar laws in other states. Which can still happen, by the way, but at least there is now a standard that has been set.
So if you’re fan of equality, and would like to see the privileges our nation offers applied to everyone, you may want to start following this issue now, long before it ever becomes a Supreme Court case.
Indeed, for transgenders, the battle has just begun. In that same state, the South Dakota House recently passed a bill that would restrict transgender students’ participation in high school sports.
Sadly, people might not start caring until Facebook offers them a transgender-related color in which they could overlay their profile picture.