Marriage equality may be a reality in the U.S. but that doesn’t mean that discrimination isn’t alive and thriving right here in our home state.
Despite obvious examples, discrimination is even more painfully apparent considering the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) run-down of Georgia laws regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Whether you like it or not, Georgia law still permits discrimination against same-sex couples regarding housing, adoption and employment.
I find this very disillusioning, because while we were all carried away celebrating the victorious SCOTUS’ ruling, we overlooked these unfair and discriminatory laws.
While the new marriage equality act is truly a historic turning point, it’s really only a stepping stone on a constant uphill battle. Many readers may not even know that there’s been push-back against discriminatory policies here at Georgia State as well.
A prime example was highlighted in an article The Signal wrote a few months ago, when astronomy professor Todd Henry spoke out against Georgia State’s HR policies that prohibited same-sex couples from claiming benefits that heterosexual faculty members could.
It should be noted that our university did allow for some ”domestic partnership” benefits to be claimed, but it still placed these couples at a disadvantage because same-sex marriages were heretofore unrecognized by the state.
Even more cringe-worthy was Georgia State’s decision not to only deny LGBTQIQ faculty members the ability to claim their spouses on their benefit plans, but instead offer pretty extensive medical plans for pets.
However, our school stood by their stance that as a public university…it had “to comply with all state and federal laws”.
But now that federal law has changed, we should expect that the same discrimination that Henry and many others faced over benefits and other simple rights that heterosexual couples had would no longer be an issue right? Wrong.
On July 1 the University System of Georgia’s website stated that it’s HR offices was, “working with each of our vendors as well as legal council to identify and update our plan documents to accurately reflect the change”.
This is a good thing, but should we not consider how shameful that such a change was only implemented once it was deemed mandatory on a federal level? What about those who are still able to be discriminated against in other sectors of everyday life?
It appears that as long as Georgia still has the ability to discriminate against same-sex couples on a statewide level, they’ll take advantage of it. After all, they’re only making small changes now because someone more powerful told them to do it.
Nevertheless, there’s still hope that we will see more progress in a direction toward banishing discriminatory state laws that allow for others to enjoy rights at the expense of others. After all for those who have fought for equality, such as professor Henry, wounds of hurt and resentment may heal over time, but for those who still will be denied a job, roof over their head, or the opportunity to start a family, it’s going to take a lot more than “updating and accurately reflecting” changes.