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Monday, September 1, 2014 | Last updated: 9:21pm

US LGBTQ progress not negated by AZ bill



On Thursday the passage of Senate Bill 1062, which has been criticized for being discriminatory, reminded the LGBTQ community of one undeniable truth: There is prominent polarization on the issue of LGBTQ rights in Arizona. According to CNN, this bill could “allow business owners … to deny gay and lesbian customers.”

It is difficult not to get caught up in the stuffy — and extremely hurtful — set of words that is somehow making its way through the governmental system. If opponents of the bill truly look at public reaction, they will see how much our culture values diversity in all its forms.

As the LGBTQ community gains more of a voice in society through national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign or Tucson’s very own Wingspan the U.S. is undergoing a significant cultural shift. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage, and since then 16 more states have done the same.

While the Arizona government’s decision is disheartening, the LGBTQ community’s progress is not over. This year has already been a monumental one.

In January, CNN reported that “an Oklahoma federal court [ruled] the state ban on same-sex marriage ‘an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.’”

Just this month, federal judges in both Kentucky and Virginia deemed a same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, and as of June 1 of this year, same-sex couples in Illinois will have the right to get married.

Facebook’s addition of more than 50 gender options also reminds us of this shift in social consciousness. Earlier this month, Facebook introduced a custom gender option for Facebook users in the United States. On the list are classifications such as two-spirit, genderfluid, androgynous, neither, intersex, genderqueer and many more.

The subtle change to this mega-platform is one way to establish as a norm that gender is not binary and that individuals identify in a number of ways. Facebook has more than 180,000,000 users from the U.S., a 22.6 percent increase since January 2011. The overwhelming and undeniable presence of social media in our society signifies how prominent these identity options could be in informing the public of gender diversity.

Since Facebook added these identity options, a variety of websites including Slate, The Daily Beast and ninemsn have posted descriptions for each of the gender identities. Curious or confused Facebook users can utilize these articles, participating in a pursuit of knowledge that provides insight into the identities of those who don’t fit within socially constructed gender roles.

Tucson’s Rocco’s Little Chicago also made a powerful statement about S.B. 1062 through a sign that reads, “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.” Photos of the sign made their way around the web on popular sites like Facebook and Buzzfeed.

As upsetting as many find this bill, myself included, change does not start or end at the government level. There will always be people who disapprove of and discriminate against others under the guise of their own moral code. Rather, change takes place when a shift in social consciousness occurs — and that’s what’s happening in the U.S. right now.

— Shelby Thomas is a sophomore studying family studies and human development and Spanish. Follow her @shelbyalayne


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