Personally speaking, it’s a disappointing result – particularly given that San Francisco, arguably the most gay-friendly city in the country, is the place I call home. But it’s a reminder that there is still much fighting to be done not just for marriage equality, but for the protection and human rights of the LGBT community worldwide.
Reports of gay men being systematically killed and tortured by militia groups in Iraq began surfacing earlier this year – gritty, gruesome accounts of murders and kidnappings without so much as a flinch from authorities. The Ugandan parliament received a bill two weeks ago that would criminalize any acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment or the death penalty. Global Voices Online has documented a scamming trend in Ghana where groups set up fake dating websites targeted towards gays and then extort their unsuspecting victims for money under threat of arrest.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s true that LGBT rights have come a phenomenally long way in recent years. India decriminalized homosexuality by overturning a 148-year-old ban; President Obama recently signed a bill declaring violence against gays a hate crime; South Africa has passed landmark legislation allowing gay marriage (although it has not been without loud opposition). Yet still, the mere existence of homosexuality, let alone the thought of legalizing gay marriage, has wrought so much deeply-rooted fear in so many societies that the thought of achieving full equality seems both a Herculean task and a distant ideal.
But attitudes are undeniably shifting, and perhaps as is the case with America, global tolerance will rise as the younger generation takes over. Perhaps LGBT rights will even be enshrined in international law. But how long can we afford to wait? How much more violence and denial of equal treatment will the LGBT community have to withstand until their rights are finally recognized?