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In November, California voters approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, thereby overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.
Why are civil unions not enough for gay rights activists? The federal government accords 1,138 benefits and responsibilities based on marital status, not on civil union status. A few of those benefits are unpaid leave to care for an ill spouse, social security survivor benefits and spousal benefits, and the right not to testify against one's spouse, among others.
The District of Columbia and 47 states have anti-hate crime laws, however only 24 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their legislation.
According to FBI hate crime statistics, there were 7,163 reported hate crimes in 2005. 14.2% of which were based on sexual orientation. Most were violent in nature.
Last year, both houses of Congress passed a historic hate crimes bill known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which would have outlawed hate crimes based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. But the legislation never made it to President Bush's desk because of his veto threat.
While 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law didn't offer such a shield until November of 2007, though it did bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy. The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, was the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. To ensure passage of the bill, Democrats were forced to remove language that would have granted protections to transsexual and transgender individuals by barring discrimination based on sexual identity, a move that infuriated some gay-rights groups.
In the U.S., 75% of students have no state laws to protect them from harassment and discrimination in school based on their sexual orientation. In public high schools, 97% of students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers.
Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 20% and 40% identify as LGBT. In one study, 26% of gay teens who came out to their parents/guardians were told they must leave home; LGBT youth also leave home due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Also, LGBT youth report they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters by staff as well as other residents.
While gay couples are seen on TV shows more often than in the past (eg. Luke and Noah, the young gay couple on "As The World Turns"), affection between the two is restricted to holding hands, playing with one another's neck scarves and sharing meaningful looks. This wouldn't be odd if heterosexual couples were not shown kissing on a regular basis.
Despite the shortage of blood at banks across the country, gay donors are being turned away. Men who have had sexual contact with a man, even once, since 1977 are automatically disqualified. The agency has had its policy on men who have sexual contact with men since 1983, when the risk of AIDS through transfusion was recognized. The FDA reaffirmed the policy in May of 2007, despite improvements in testing and increased susceptibility of heterosexuals to HIV. All donated blood is tested for HIV, but the virus can go undetected until the immune system has produced a testable amount of antibodies. That window period, according to the FDA, would pose a "small but definite increased risk to people who receive blood transfusion if the policy were changed."
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