#2. Marriage is visible.
One often ignored facet of the fight for equality occurs in the prison system. In violent jails with little protection already, incarcerated LGBT individuals are at increased risk for abuse from other prisoners and even prison workers. Given the increased likelihood of LGBT youth to become homeless or substance abusers (largely in part due to being kicked out of their homes and subjected to increased hostility from society), the risk facing incarcerated LGBT individuals is a problem that needs to be spoken about.
Furthermore, transgender individuals are routinely placed in prisons of the wrong sex–increasing the risks even more–and many LGBT individuals are placed in solitary confinement “for their own protection,” regardless of the psychological harms it can cause.
Unfortunately, most people have never been in prison, so the rights of prisoners–especially LGBT prisoners–are the farthest things from their minds.
After all, no one sees it. It’s invisible.
Marriage, on the other hand, is something that’s very visible. People wear engagement rings and wedding rings, pictures of ceremonies are shared far and wide on social media, and even the legal benefits of marriage can be easily seen: visitation rights at hospitals, joint filing of taxes, and the list goes on (I hesitate to include adoption and raising a family, since even legally married LGBT couples continue to face obstacles to starting a family in some states). Not to mention, it’s hard to talk about life without talking about the important relationships in our lives–even simply sharing with friends and family what we did over the weekend is likely to include references to our significant others.
Now an important distinction is necessary here: I’m not saying marriage rights are more important than prisoner rights because they’re more visible. On the contrary, I think prisoner rights in many places are vastly more important, but in terms of cultural awareness and influence, marriage is more likely to be seen relative to prisoner rights. I’ll elaborate on why this matters a little further, but the important thing here is that marriage is visible, not that it’s more important than less-visible issues.