A struggle for acceptance

By Jake Palmer and Gabriel Schneider
Published: November 2009

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Columbia University in September, 2007. Although many in the audience took this statement in jest, the truth is that Ahmadinejad didn’t have a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“I don’t know who’s told you that we have this phenomenon, he maintained.

Unfortunately, as demonstrated by Iran, homosexuality is still not tolerated in many parts of the world. Yet, as easy as it is to condemn other countries for intolerance, it’s necessary to first scrutinize America’s own willingness to accept civil liberties for all people.

Though America was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity, gays and lesbians still fight for their inalienable rights.

“31 states have voted about gay marriage, and none have approved it, history teacher Robert Parlin said. “The US is not overall more tolerant [than other countries], but rather better educated communities tend to be more tolerant.

Even states that are often deemed more accepting toward diversity have not recently demonstrated a readiness to change through political action. California and Maine for instance, two states that successfully passed legislation to legalize gay marriage, later voted to rescind their decisions.

According to Parlin, acceptance in the US “depends on where in the country you’re looking.
“It tends to be more tolerant in liberal states, but even in liberal places like Newton, there is some intolerance, he said.

Senior Aron Milberg agrees: “It varies everywhere, even within this country. Compared to Saudi Arabia, we’re extremely progressive.

Massachusetts has proven to be an outlier of sorts in comparison to the rest of the world, let alone the country. In 2004, Massachusetts became only the sixth jurisdiction in the world, after The Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, to legalize same sex marriage. Although America is often viewed as on the forefront of civil rights, the truth is that Massachusetts is unique in its endeavors. The question arises: why is America so behind?
Policy makers have by no means neglected the gay rights issue. In October of this year, President Barack Obama signed a major piece of federal gay rights legislation, which many people compared to the 1960s civil rights legislation. Unfortunately, due to difficulties in passing partisan agendas through Congress, Obama has had trouble making significant progress.

Even despite gradual advancement in legislative initiatives, there remains widespread intolerance in America’€though it may not be seen to the same extent in more well educated communities such as Newton.

Denmark and Canada for example, lead the world in civil rights awareness by allowing the unhindered right of gay marriage; also, much of the European Union preaches tolerance.
On the other side of the spectrum, many Middle Eastern and Asian countries still condemn and actively repudiate homosexuality.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, hundreds of gay Iraqi men have been tortured and murdered in recent months.

“Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said in a CNN interview. “Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi.

Injustices like those in Iraq are evident in many parts of the world’€even though they often go unnoticed by the public.

Latent suppression of civil rights also exists in Asian countries such as China, where, according to Parlin, homosexuality is considered unacceptable.

Parlin suggests that this problem of intolerance stems from a lack of education about peoples’ differences.

“In many schools across the globe, homosexuality is not even discussed, he said. “Through education, comes empathy.

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