Although Valentine’s Day is an age-old celebration of love, the LGBTQ+ community hasn’t always been able to experience it freely and openly.
From sodomy laws to marriage inequality, the LGBTQ+ community has faced much persecution and has regularly been forced to turn to the courts to fight discrimination. In the last few years, the LGBTQ+ community has been granted the right to marry, has hit a record high in media representation and has seen a large increase in political representation as well. Frances Jackson, Texas A&M’s LGBTQ+ Pride Center coordinator, said both representations in the media and the progress of LGBTQ+ laws have advanced rapidly in the past few years.
“It’s important as we move forward to think about, legally, how far we’ve come in just the past few years,” Jackson said. “As we think about some of the advances in media representation, we should also think about the legal things that have improved recently.”
While same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized in the United States until 2015, 2003 saw a big change in the lone star state with Lawrence v. Texas. This ruling on this case eliminated sodomy laws, which outlawed certain sexual acts and targeted same-sex couples. Karen Loewy, senior counsel of Lambda Legal, which fights for LGBTQ+ legal rights, told TIME in 2019 that this court case helped popularize the idea that personal morals and laws exist separately.
“Public ideas about morality cannot justify infringing people’s constitutional rights,” Loewy told TIME. “The court really recognized that LGBTQ people are entitled to constitutional protections for intimate conduct. For private, consensual, intimate conduct.”
Twelve years later in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, a group of 14 same-sex couples and two men argued state officials violated the 14th Amendment by denying access to same-sex marriage or by not recognizing marriages from other states. Ultimately, the group won the court battle, granting LGBTQ+ couples the right to be legally married.
Communication junior Anna Solis said while this was a huge victory, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face violence and discrimination on a daily basis.
“Just because we can marry each other and can’t get fired from our jobs because of our identity doesn’t mean we are fully accepted into society yet,” Solis said. “There is still so much to do. Trans people, especially black trans women, face violence on a daily basis. We have to create safe spaces for them and listen to what they need.”
Jackson said Valentine’s Day is a great day for celebrating love, especially as laws continue to progress in a way that allows people to be themselves without fear of legal persecution.
“It all comes back to normalizing different types of love,” said Jackson. “It’s within the past generation that we have seen these things become legal, so by having these representations we can normalize this love for the general population.”