It's already clear that gay marriage will be, once again, a major issue this year. Today, in a major victory for gay marriage advocates, a panel of federal judges ruled California's gay marriage ban is constitutional. Last week, the Washington state Senate approved a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, paving the way for gay marriage to become law.
But the fight for same-sex marriage is only a piece of a larger civil rights struggle. And with all eyes focused on the issue of matrimony, it's easy to miss some of the other battlegrounds.
For instance, parental rights has long been an issue for gay couples concerned about legal protections. In Iowa, health officials are looking to the courts for how to identify same-sex couples with children. According to the Muscatine Journal, last month, the Polk county court ruled the state should list both the birth mother and her female partner as the parents of one child, conceived through an anonymous sperm donor. The Iowa Department of Public health is appealing the decision because, according to a spokesperson, officials want to know how to identify gay couples who "conceive in other ways."
In Minnesota, the state's largest school district may repeal its current policy that teachers remain neutral when it comes to issues of sexual orientation. Teachers have argued the rule prevents them from stopping bullying, and according to Minnesota Public Radio, the teachers' union is supporting the repeal. In its place, there's a proposal for a new rule that, MPR's reports, would "bar teachers from influencing students on controversial topics." In November, Minnesota voters will decide on an amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman, but in the meantime, at least one school district is giving gay youth more allies in the classroom
And in Maryland, the legislature is considering a bill to ban discrimination against transgendered people. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the bill "would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, the workplace and public places." It's already drawing fire, and the Sun highlighted witnesses who came to speak against the bill, worried it would be "a steppingstone in causing children to sin." One woman in the article said she hadn't slept in weeks for fear of seeing a man in a women's restroom.
In the midst of this national push for civil rights, it's good to know some people are keeping their minds on the big stuff.