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5 Battles LGBT Americans Won

5 Battles LGBT Americans Won

These victories gave us hope, and proved that progress was possible. Let's keep fighting!

In the wake of the tragedy at Pulse, we are reminded of how many battles we still have left to fight before LGBT people will be truly safe. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember the battles we have won. These victories gave us hope, and proved that progress was possible. It’s our job now to continue that progress.

1) It’s a federal crime to assault people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
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In 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. Before 2009, it was not a federal crime to assault people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

While this isn’t a battle any of us wanted to fight in the first place, having legal repercussions that match the severity of the crime sends a powerful message that hatred against LGBT people is not okay.

2) Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.
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In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. That ruling gave same-sex couples the same spousal rights as straight couples, including tax, government, family, housing, and employment benefits, as well as the right to visit your spouse in the hospital, make medical decisions if your spouse becomes unable, and making final arrangements.

Being denied the right to visit your life partner in the hospital was a reality for so many gay people during the AIDS crisis. The right to marry goes well beyond a legal acknowledgment of love.

3) HIV/AIDS awareness.
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While we are still fighting for better prevention tactics, better treatment, and a cure or eradication of HIV/AIDS, we have come a long way since the 1980s. We acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is not only a “gay disease.” We know how to prevent it from spreading. We have drugs like PrEP that strengthen existing prevention methods. We have rapid tests that are available for free throughout the country. We have more effective treatment options, so people diagnosed with HIV can live long, healthy, joyful lives.

We’re still combating the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, and the disease still disproportionately affects African Americans and Latinos, so in many ways the battle is on going. Men who have had sex with men in the last year are still banned from giving blood, despite the fact that two men in a monogamous relationship who have been tested for HIV would have far less of a possibility of having HIV than a straight man who had multiple partners in the last year.  Still, when you look at how far we’ve come, we have to acknowledge all the battles we’ve won in the ongoing struggle to end HIV/AIDS.

4) The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

For 17 years, DADT prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans from serving openly in the armed forces, and service members were discharged when their sexual orientation was revealed. Now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who want to serve their country can do so openly, and those who were discharged can re-enlist.

5) The mysterious gay agenda is working.
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Only 48 percent of 13-20 year olds identify as “exclusively heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of those aged 21 to 34. This doesn’t mean there are more LGBT people now, but it does suggest that more and more people feel comfortable identifying that way.

Younger generations are aware of more than gay and straight, and they’re finding or creating their place in the LGBT community. While the tragedy in Orlando proves it’s still not always safe to be LGBT, more people feel safe enough to come out. Let’s keep fighting to make sure our world is a safe one for them to live and love in.

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Cassie Sheets