Elton John has always been one of the most forward-thinking public figures when it comes to LGBT rights and representation. The "Rocket Man" singer came out himself in 1976, at a time when the world felt very differently about gay people (for reference, consensual sex between men was still considered a crime in the UK just nine years earlier). John married his husband, David Furnish, in 2014, when same-sex marriage was legalized in England. Since the Supreme Court's historic decision on June 26, Elton John shared his thoughts on gay marriage in Variety, and what comes next in the struggle for equality.
It's tempting to think, now that it's legal in the United States to marry whomever you love, regardless of sexuality, that the gay rights movement is complete. We did it, we won, we can all go home. But, as much as we would like to live in a such a world, there are still many ways LGBT people are oppressed, and many issues, such as homelessness, housing and employment discrimination, and violence, that disproportionately affect this population. John addressed what issues he sees as most important going forward, including the continued spread of HIV/AIDS, while also celebrating the marriage victory that was just achieved.
"3 billion people live in countries that outlaw homosexuality ... gay marriage is legal in only 21 nations [out of 195] ..."
John made sure to mention that most of the world still has a long way to come. While people in the US are celebrating the right to get married, about half of all LGBT people on the planet could face legal repercussions just for identifying as anything other than straight, let alone asking their governments to recognize their relationships.
"The goal of the gay-rights movement is less about walking down the aisle, and more about walking down the street — with dignity, with pride, and without fear of harassment or discrimination."
Plenty of gay people are not at the point in their lives where they're ready for marriage — and some would rather not get married at all, for both personal and political reasons. But they still face more dangerous challenges than not being allowed to exchange vows. In 2014, there were over 1,700 reported incidents of anti-LGBT violence in America, including 20 homicides, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
"...Today, one in two gay black men in the United States will have HIV by the time they are 35."
John explains this by writing "Communities that are stigmatized and discriminated against are always — always — the most vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic. They are disproportionately impacted for the simple reason that discrimination prevents them from having equal access to healthcare and critical social services."
"... Transgender women in America are 34 times more likely than non-transgender individuals to be HIV-positive."
Though we're continuing to see changing attitude towards trans people, 32 states still do not outlaw discrimination against trans people.
"It isn’t just about marriage. And it isn’t just about the gay community. It’s about the need for all people, everywhere, to have the same rights and protections under the law. It’s about the need for all people, everywhere, to be treated with compassion and dignity."
Click here to get involved in the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Cover image: David Shankbone/Flickr