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When you compare the United States now to how it was when it was founded, you may find that it’s very different. The civil rights movement, including the LGBTQIA movement, in the last century has made leaps and bounds to create equality and representation for diverse groups of people.
Sometimes the start to more inclusive laws can be turbulent. Marriage laws tend to start by banning, as opposed to allowing, non-traditional relationships. Some of these included interracial and homosexual relationships, and of the laws banning same-sex relationships even lasted long into the 20th century.
These laws made things like oral and anal sex, or even being gay in the first place, illegal. Despite heterosexual couples being able to engage in these activities, the police targeted gay men mainly. If someone were caught being a gay man, they would be arrested and sent to a mental health clinic to be “cured.” The laws against sodomy lasted until 2003, then the Supreme Court landmark case Lawrence v. Texas struck the last of them down.
This is comforting to know that, as a gay man, I don’t have to worry about breaking the law because of my attraction to men. But this comfort has been infringed upon this last month when Michigan passed a bill that contains provisions that ban oral and anal sex. This is very frustrating because it seems like a large step back.
I don’t expect this bill to last very long, as it contradicts Lawrence v. Texas, but it alludes to the fact that the lawmakers still harbor many discriminatory opinions that influence how they govern. The worse part of this is that these opinions aren’t representative of the majority of the public’s opinion. Between polls I have seen and the Supreme Court ruling last summer, more than 50 percent of the public are gay-friendly or at least tolerant of the gay community.
When I see things like this around the country, it makes me think about my life and that I have the privilege of being open about my sexuality. I think about all of the people who have made sacrifices for equality and it humbles me to think that I am able to be who I am without too much fear.
I think about my experiences of homophobia as well when laws like this surface. The people who support these laws are often the people, at least in my experience, who would bully me for being gay. Laws like these make me empathetic towards people in the closet and coming out because they see these governmental messages that say their identity is wrong and that they should not embrace who they are. It reminds me of when I had little confidence in regard to my sexuality, which had a large impact on my self-opinion.
While this law may not be a huge deal in the grand scheme of the world, it gives the incorrect impression that the country is completely homophobic.