For LGBTQ People in the U.S., Your Zip Code Makes All the Difference

In today's New York Times, Frank Bruni, the first and only openly gay opinion writer for the nation's paper of record, ran a major feature on the state of LGBTQ rights in the United States. The piece underlines a disturbing but not altogether surprising truth about our country: LGBTQ Americans can lead drastically different lives depending on the state in which we live.

The difference, in fact, can be felt just a few zip codes away.

"In Waco, Tex., the lone justice of the peace who presides over weddings recently admitted that she won't do so for same-sex couples no matter the federal law," Bruni writes. "But Houston, just a three-hour drive away, has in instances been a pioneer: Annise Parker, its mayor from 2010 to 2016, is the only openly L.G.B.T. person ever elected to lead one of the nation's 10 most populous cities."

It's likely not difficult for the average American to understand the difference in quality of life that exists for a gay person living in, say, Laramie, Wyoming versus Seattle, Washington. But through interviews with local LGBTQ people, Bruni does an excellent job bringing these stark differences to life, particularly on the subject of parenthood.

For instance, Dennis Williams, a gay father of a 3-year-old living in Brookyln, New York, says that while he sometimes gets looks from passersby, it's almost like they're "proud" of him. "I can't think of a single instance when anyone has been weird or I've had to confront any kind of homophobia," he continues. "I don't know that I could find this level of reinforced diversity outside of where I am now."

Meanwhile, Tommy Starling, a gay father of two living in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, was once told his children should be removed from his care and he and his husband "hanged." "If it wasn't for my husband's job, we wouldn't be here," Starling went on. "We're constantly under a microscope, two dads raising kids. We were featured in a local publication and some comments were really nasty."

The piece is not the first, and it won't be the last, to break down differences in the LGBTQ experience in the United States. But Bruni's piece is notable for its comprehensiveness. He notes, for instance, the vastly different access some LGBTQ parents have to legal and reproductive rights, noting that 33 states do not have a law allowing for second parent adoption, while 7 states have laws prohibiting gestational surrogacy.

The full article is well worth a read.

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