Yesterday, The New York Times published an article, written by Adam Liptak, entitled, “Justice Rulings Advance Gays; Women Less So,” essentially speaking to the apparent disparity between the Supreme Court’s Decisions involving gay rights and women’s rights. Liptak compares the Supreme Court’s recent blows to women’s rights with Hobby Lobby and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, to the recent victories of the Gay Rights Movement, with the repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act among other similar feats.
While the article presents several crucial points, including the often arbitrary nature of these paramount court decisions (namely Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose rulings are usually based on personal biases, among other things), the article does so by unnecessarily pitting the gay rights and women’s rights movements against each other.
Rather than just speaking out against the Supreme Court’s many unforgivable blows to women, Liptak thought it necessary to discuss women’s rights against the backdrop of gay rights, mentioning the “inconsistency” of the Supreme Courts rulings, as if the two movements were in some sort of competition with each other, or that one deserves precedence over the other. In this way, the article is guilty of indicating a “hierarchy of oppression.”
Despite the Supreme Court’s detrimental decisions on reproductive justice, this does not demerit the recent strides towards marriage equality. Ultimately, both groups want the same thing, equal rights, and it is vital that BOTH are successful in achieving this goal. All forms of oppression sprout from the same roots of discrimination and misconception, and no group gains anything from the oppression of a fellow minority.
Audre Lorde stated in her essay, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” “it is a standard of right-wing cynicism to encourage members of oppressed groups to act against each other, and so long as we are divided because of our particular identities we cannot join together in effective political action.” As long as lesbians are women, and some women are lesbians, both movements will exist in conjunction with one another, and benefit from the others’ acquisition of more rights.
Instead of disparaging the gay rights movement, commentators should be encouraging the Supreme Court to view the women’s rights movement in a similar light. Gay rights gained popularity when people began to perceive it as a human rights issue. Rather than the “us vs. them” connotation that the women’s rights movement still seems to carry, the gay rights movement became an “us vs. us” issue with which heterosexual people could identify. (The fact that cis white males were the face of the movement definitely couldn’t have hurt…) In order to make strides, women’s reproductive rights has to be seen as a human rights issue. But ultimately people like Adam Liptak need to stop attempting to pit oppressed groups against each other, and rather, encourage them to join forces so we can achieve equality once and for all.