A Culture of Discrimination

Being gay is easy.

Or, at least, it is in San Francisco’s Castro district. It’s hard to find someone who’s not supportive of gay rights among the area’s endless display of rainbows.

Everywhere else, being gay is hard. That’s why Joe Mac, a resident of the Castro district, gives so much credit to LGBT individuals living in small towns. There, the number of supporters is closer to five instead of 5,000. For many, coming out isn’t an option, and those who are out often face disapproval from friends and family.

So, at best, being gay is easy, but for most, being gay is hard, and for some, being gay is criminal.

Even in light of the Supreme Court’s actions on Wednesday regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, gay rights still have a long way to go.

The legalization of gay marriage in California and the destruction of DOMA are worth celebrating, but California’s victory doesn’t extend to its neighboring states, let alone the rest of the world.

Beyond our country’s borders, policies concerning gay rights range from “way better than America” to “we hate gays more than Rick Santorum.” The latter is terrifying if not barbaric.

In many countries, especially throughout Africa and the Middle East, homosexual interaction is illegal. There are nine countries that give the death penalty to those who break this law.

Although California took a huge step forward this Wednesday, Russia passed a law on the same day banning “gay propaganda”, which prohibits discussion of LGBT issues with minors.

Even Canada, the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, still implements legal discrimination. Section 159 of the Criminal Code of Canada establishes the age of consent for gay sex as 18, while the “normal” age of consent is 16.

What? Do gay people develop the ability to have sex later than straight people? Or are they just too dumb to understand what consent is? Or, maybe, Canada isn’t as queer positive as it seems.

It’s terrifying enough that we have laws that attack queer individuals, but that’s nothing compared to the culture that enables the existence of those laws.

Though acceptance of the LGBT community is increasing rapidly, most of the world is still engulfed by homophobia. It’s exposed through pop culture as much as religion and the message of intolerance is often accepted as normal, or even a good thing.

Parts of almost every major religion continue to endorse homophobia, and, while I’d rather not poke religious debates with a ten foot stick while wearing a biohazard suit, the hate produced by religion is not okay.

Religious based hatred is not only wrong, but it’s hypocritical. People can’t claim that using the Bible to justify slavery was wrong but use the same book to justify oppression of the LGBT community.

“Jesus taught lucidly that Jewish requirements for purity – varied cultural traditions – do not matter before God,” said priest and theologist Daniel A. Helminiak in a blog post for CNN, “What matters is purity of the heart.”

The Bible is meant to teach about love, yet it’s being used as a weapon to deprive LGBT individuals of every right possible. And it’s not just the Bible that’s being used this way. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and even Buddhism use religious texts to justify homophobia.

There isn’t a single culture that’s better off filled with homophobic rhetoric, no matter what justification it used.

We should celebrate how far our country has come, but it’s also time to keep fighting until we reach the finish line.

That’s why members of the Human Rights Campaign were working to help us reach equality while others were celebrating throughout the streets of the Castro, why Mac will go back to fighting his “uphill battle” as soon as he finishes celebrating his 30th Pride in San Francisco, and why countless supporters of gay rights will join them in ending the a culture drenched with hate.

I don’t know what the indicator of the finish line will be, but I’m hoping for a rainbow or two, and I hope that I’m there to see it.

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