As we near the end of the decade, we look back at the progress that has been made in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, although large strides have been made in multiple sections of human rights here in America, there have also been many ways in the last decade where we have faltered or even slid backward.
The legalization of gay marriage is probably the biggest humans right advancement in the United States in the last 10 years. In 2010, there were 29 states that outright said marriage was between a man and a woman in their constitution, and another 12 had statutes that stated that. It wasn’t until 2013 that the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally defined marriage as between a man and a woman, would be overturned. But even in that short span of time, more and more states slowly began to legalize gay marriage.
By June 2015, gay marriage had become legal in 37 states, from Maine to California to Alabama to Wisconsin. But not long after that, the Supreme Court would decide in Obergefell v. Hodges to make gay marriage legal in every single state, a landmark decision for equality decided by conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy spoke about the decision last year when he said in an interesting interview that his own decision, in that case, surprised him: “It seemed to me that just … wrong, under the constitution, to say that over 100,000 adopted children of gay parents could not have their parents married. I just thought that this was wrong.”
However, while these events were a huge step forward for human rights in America, there were also many blows. One such blow is the repeated issue of police brutality, especially brutality towards people of color who are often unarmed. A 2012 FBI survey said that even though people of color are only 13% of the population of the United States, they accounted for 31% of all people killed by the police and 39% of the people killed by police who weren’t attacking.
When we think of police brutality, many people’s first thought is cases like Eric Garner, who was killed by New York Police in an illegal chokehold for selling loose cigarettes, or Atatiana Jefferson, who was killed in her own home while playing video games with her nephew. These are just two of many, many cases of unarmed people of color being murdered by the police. These are not people who were threatening the police or anyone else in any way, not people who had a weapon, not people who deserved these brutal killings.
Perhaps even more horrific than these murders is that very few of the officers who are involved have even been punished. It took five years for the man who used an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner to be fired, but in a world where the police can use virtually anything as justification for murder, even that is several steps above a number of cases where those officers get off with no charges or even get to keep their jobs.
One final expansion of human rights in the United States came in 2012 when President Obama signed into law the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows people who came to the country as children before 2007 and had lived in the US since before they were 16. The program allows these people to get work permits and stay in the United States but does not currently provide them with any path towards permanency here, such as a green card or citizenship. So while this program is definitely a step forward, it’s not enough. These people, many who came here as children with no control over their own lives or where they lived, some of whom only know life here, should have a path to be able to be citizens of our country.
Though human rights in the United States have certainly advanced in the last decade, they are still not where they need to be. We must continue pushing forward and advancing rights for everyone, so that all people in our country can be truly equal.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.