The Victories and Setbacks of the LGBTQ+ Movement and Where We Go From Here

Last Updated on October 26, 2022

On June 26, 2015, the American public moved into a new reality. In a historical 5 to 4 vote, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that bans against same-sex marriage were unconstitutional and must be struck down immediately. It had been a moment that LGBTQ+ advocates had been waiting for and working towards for many years. For over a decade, various states have legalized same-sex marriage within their borders. However, many were still denied the right to marriage because their particular state had not legalized it. The History Channel explains how this specific case played out:

Obergefell originated with a gay couple, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who were married in Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal, but whose marriage was not recognized by Ohio authorities. As often happens with Supreme Court cases, several similar cases in Ohio and elsewhere were consolidated into what became Obergefell v. Hodges. The Supreme Court heard arguments on April 28, 2015. On June 26, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that bans on same-sex marriages and bans on recognizing same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. 

So why the history lesson? Because it is meaningful to understand how the country is moving forward with its march towards progress in expanding marriage and other rights to LGBTQ+ individuals – especially when it comes to our greater societal acceptance of people of varying sexual identities and orientations. 

Marriage Rights are Not the End Point of the Battle

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, love someone in that community, or are an ally, then you probably understand that the battle for equal rights is far from over. Some people felt the battle was over once marriage equality was established for LGBTQ+ people, but this is far from the truth. 

According to Vox, 30 states still allow discrimination in the workplace against LGBTQ+ individuals, and it gets worse. LGBTQ+ members may also be legally discriminated against in the following matters in those 30 states: 


Hospital visitation rights

Workplace rights

Public accommodations


Religious ceremonies

The list goes on and on and is largely unnoticed by the non-LGBTQ+ public. The idea that LGBTQ+ individuals are not still discriminated against and marginalized is a false narrative we tell ourselves to get through the day. The reality is that systemic discrimination is still alive and well within the borders of the United States and beyond. 

A Changing Tide

It is not fair to speak only of the massive obstacles that remain in the way of the LGBTQ+ movement without paying attention and respect to the multitudes of people looking for ways to change that reality. It turns out that there is a changing tide of opinion in our society regarding same-sex marriage rights and many other issues critical to the LGBTQ+ movement. 

A recent Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans now support legalizing same-sex marriage. That is a record high since the survey was conducted and is the latest sign that Americans have evolved in their opinions. While a human being’s rights are not up for a vote or negotiation, it is nice to know that there is significant public backing for those rights to continue to exist. Other advancements for the LGBTQ+ community include: 

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Increase in LGBTQ+ clubs on school campuses

Transgender rights added into the fold as part of the movement

Professional athletes come out as LGBTQ+

Greater visibility given to the issue

There are many accomplishments that the movement has notched, and many more are yet to come. However, while all of these official milestones have significantly impacted countless lives, we must also recognize that some of the most impactful moments in the lives of everyday LGBTQ+ people often come from less-highlighted events. 

Changing Hearts and Attitudes Makes a Difference

We spent a lot of time looking at major political, institutional, and societal moments when the LGBTQ+ movement won because these moments are critical. However, some of the most impactful moments for many people in the community come from smaller changes. 

For example, most online dating apps now have features that make it easier for LGBTQ+ individuals to find matches. They are also bolstered by people around them being supportive and understanding. Those connections are precious, and they are connections that members of the LGBTQ+ community may have been afraid to make not that long ago. Now, they can trust that they will likely find a supportive group to surround themselves with. 

Many support and advocacy groups have popped up in schools, local communities, and even religious congregations. These provide yet another outlet for LGBTQ+ individuals to find the support and help they need when they are struggling (and when they are thriving!). 

Society does not change in a heartbeat, and many people in the LGBTQ+ community are still oppressed. There are far too many people still shunned by their parents because of who they are, and suicide rates among this group remain startlingly high. We cannot take our foot off the pedal because we have managed to notch some victories. We should take heart in the fact that we have made as much progress as we have, but we must also recognize that there is plenty of work left to do. We can and must do better as a society, and the best way to do that is to recognize our shortcomings and do what we can in our own small way to ease a small piece of the burden of these problems. 

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