The Pertinence of Perry to Challenging the Continuing Criminalization of LGBT People

Introduction

The landmark nature of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Perry v. Brown, and of legislated and litigated marriage equality around the country and the world, cannot be denied. On a personal level, the advent of marriage equality in Canada–as distinct from domestic partnership–had a profound, although incomplete, impact on my own family’s acceptance of my sexuality. Conversely, while on a recent vacation in North Carolina, I noticed the subtle effect the recent statewide ban on same-sex marriage had on the choices my butch lesbian partner and I–who don’t believe in the institution of marriage–made in how we conducted ourselves in public, compared to when we are at home in New York. Many of the LGBTQ youth of color I work with at Streetwise and Safe (SAS) hailed the 2011 passage of legislation officially bringing marriage equality to New York as a benchmark of society’s acceptance–even as many of them remain among the one in four LGBTQ youth who experience a negative reaction when they disclose their sexuality to their families, and are among the hundreds of thousands who experience violence and homelessness as a result.¬†And unfortunately, despite the enactment of local and state anti-discrimination ordinances, many LGBTQ youth continue to be pushed out of schools, shelters, services, and ultimately, the streets by homophobia and transphobia on the part of peers, administrators, and law enforcement agents. As a result of this systemic rejection and criminalization, all too many LGBTQ youth end up infoster care and the juvenile justice system, only to face continuing homophobia and violence within those institutions.

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