Editorial: In defense of equality

All people who cherish liberty, justice and equality have something to celebrate after Iowa’s Supreme Court and Vermont’s Legislature added those states to the short list of places in America where gay marriage is recognized as legitimate and legal. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont have now taken the step that must be taken by our nation as a whole.

We have a long way to go in securing full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and until we get there the rights of all Americans will be less secure.

It is unacceptable that only 16 states and the District of Columbia have domestic partnership laws that formally recognize same-sex relationships.

It is unacceptable that equal benefits ordinances, which require government contractors to provide equal benefits to their LGBT workers, exist in only a handful of cities and towns.

It is unacceptable that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples are not included in the Family and Medical Leave Act, and only seven states have corrected that injustice on the state level.

It is unacceptable that even lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers who do have access to domestic partner benefits are the victims of discrimination by the Internal Revenue Service, which denies them the tax benefits everyone else is eligible for.

In all too many locations across this land the only protection these workers have is a union contract that forbids discrimination in wages and benefits. Many more, however, have no unions and no such protection.

Workplace benefits constitute up to 40 percent of overall compensation. Without the full access to these benefits which would be guaranteed if gay marriage were legalized throughout the United States, gay people are being denied a large portion of the earnings to which they are entitled. Denial of marriage rights, and therefore these benefits, deprives gay people of the ability to care for and provide for their families — one of the main reasons workers go to work in the first place.

The time for equal rights is now. Contrary to what the merchants of fear would have us believe, when two more states came out in defense of equality this month the earth continued to spin on its axis and a nation moved a little closer to justice.