Steps taken toward equal rights in election

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Hump Day

In the quest for equal rights and sex education in America, some significant strides were made last week, regardless of how we all may feel about the results of the election.

After the announcement of President Barack Obama’s win, he made history by acknowledging LGBTQ rights in his victory speech.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” Obama said.

As Obama stepped into four more years as president, news broke that Maine, Maryland and Washington all voted to legally recognize same-sex marriages. In addition, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriages as being only between a man and a woman.

Shifting attitudes regarding LGBTQ rights in the electorate also were evident as Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay politician elected into the U.S. Senate, Sean Patrick Maloney became the first openly gay politician to represent New York in Congress and Stacie Laughton was elected the first transgender legislator in New Hampshire.

In light of the overall election results, The Washington Post published a thought-provoking article about the photo of the President embracing Michelle Obama that went viral after the election. The author makes a case that the photo symbolizes a future of gender equality and “we may be parsing the broader cultural implications of this election for a long time to come.”

Not only does Obama’s re-election provide a hopeful future for gender and LGBTQ equality, it also has implications for the future of sex education.

Most people will engage in some form of sexual activity at some point in their life. Comprehensive sex education does not promote or encourage sexual activity but rather prepares us to be able to make educated decisions, free of coercion, when it comes to our sexual health. Comprehensive sex education teaches us about contraception, pregnancy, the importance of consent and how to avoid being peer pressured into sexual activity. Abstinence-only education, on the other hand, is often ridden with gender stereotypes, religious morals, scare tactics and inaccurate medical information.

President Obama’s re-election is good news for sex education, but opposition and challenges lie ahead. In 2009, the Obama administration cut funding from abstinence-only sex education and shifted to an evidence-based approach to address teen pregnancy rates and reduce sexually transmitted infections. The funding for abstinence-only education, however, was reinstated as social conservatives scored a whopping $250 million to be distributed over five years as an add-on to the Affordable Care Act.  

While it may take time for Texas to join the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal jurisdictions to support equal marriage, the tides are slowly turning state by state. After all, in September the Austin City Council became the first group of city leaders in the state of Texas to endorse marriage equality. And although Austinites wish to “Keep Austin Weird,” perhaps soon same-sex marriage won’t be a token of our weirdness, but simply a statewide affirmation of equal rights for all couples. Perhaps we can live in a future free of “legitimate rape” comments where sex education is as common sense as teaching math, biology and English.

Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Strides toward equality taken in 2012 election