As more and more people enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, we’re starting to hear a repeating litany of questions from the media. In between the talk of trade deals and what-ifs about Iran, some reporters have been asking candidates if they would attend the wedding of a person marrying someone of the same gender.
It all started when possible candidate Rick Santorum said boldly that he would not attend a same-sex marriage because it goes against his faith. Scott Walker is OK with attending the wedding reception for a same-sex couple, but not the ceremony itself (because accepting a free meal from gay people is morally better than witnessing a union, I guess). Marco Rubio would go to the ceremony even though he disagrees with same-sex marriage. Ted Cruz says he’s never been invited to a same-sex wedding so he doesn’t know how he’d react. And Rick Perry says he’d probably go but characterized the whole line of questioning as “the ‘gotcha’ question that the left tries to get out there.”
Oddly, I agree with Governor Perry. It IS a gotcha question. And I’ll take it even further and say it’s the wrong gotcha question to be asking.
The question I’d like to hear these candidates and potential candidates answer as they’re all trying to stake out their turf on same-sex marriage is this: would you fire a staffer if you found out they were gay, bisexual, or transgender?
Now, the candidates might try and get around responding by mumbling something non-committal about non-discrimination laws for employers but – and I looked this up to be sure – in their home states of Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida, firing a person for gender identity or sexuality is not against the law. Fewer than half of U.S. states give gay, bi and trans people equal protection in the workplace.
This is not a small thing. Many of the states where gay, bi and trans people are not protected in the workplace have legalized same-sex marriage (or been forced to allow it by court order). But what happens when the happy couple returns from their honeymoon to discover that their jobs are not waiting for them because their employer decided that an openly gay employee was not a benefit to the company?
Full equal rights for gay, bi and trans people doesn’t end at the altar. It’s incumbent upon those of us who consider ourselves allies to remember that there are other civil rights that need to be protected. I have no doubt in my mind that same-sex marriages will be fully recognized in all states by the end of this decade. That victory is nearly assured. However, a public sector acknowledgement of the equal value of all couples won’t stop the private sector from treating gay, bi and trans people unequally. Adam and Steve won’t get to live happily ever after if they’re denied jobs or housing. They won’t realize their American dream of business ownership if lenders won’t give them start up funds.
As Republican presidential wannabes jockey to find the “acceptable” GOP position on same-sex marriage in order to win in important primary states, it’s time for advocates to turn an eye toward the next thing and that has to be adding language about sexuality and gender identity to non-discrimination statues across the county. Asking candidates where they stand on non-discrimination policies would be a good way to kick that off.
Rebekah Kuschmider is a DC area writer with a background in non-profit management and advocacy. Her work has been seen at Babble, Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and is a contributor to the upcoming book Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (an anthology, SheWrites Press, Nov. 2015). You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.