The image I have chosen to conduct my semiotics analysis on is a photograph taken by Tim Boyle during a Marriage Equality rally in Chicago, Illinois (dated March 4th).
This powerful image establishes the struggles that have been endured by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people for hundreds of years. It reflects the conflict Homosexual civilians have faced in the United States of America and, in a broader sense, around the world. The protest took place outside the Cook County Marriage License Bureau and was held in an attempt to acquire marriage licenses for LGBT citizens.
“Hate is not a family value” conveys the Homophobic views of families in America due to religious beliefs and opinions that have been passed on from generations before. Homophobia is described as a fear, hatred, and contempt for Homosexuals or people who are perceived as Homosexual. Religious families and views are often bigoted as they are demeaning human beings just because of their sexual orientation. It is compared to racism as these views are similar as they deny a group of people their humanity in society.
The photograph taken in the month of March 2004 was a time when no states in America allowed same-sex marriages to take place, as Massachusetts became the first state to allow Gay couples to marry in the month of May that very year. This fact adds to the animosity the partakers in the march would be feeling. These citizens would have been much more discriminated against compared with nowadays, where 7 states have same-sex marriage legislation (New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, District of Columbia) and 2 states recently passing the Marriage Equality bill but with the act still yet to take effect (Maryland, Washington).
Pride in the face of adversity takes great courage and I think that it is expressed in this picture; the faces of those civilians show rage, passion for the cause, infuriation, uproar and the burning feelings of resentment to those that have suppressed them or their friends and family from a basic human right. As their efforts were then denied by the City Hall, the main perception of the image could be injustice to those rallying, prejudice and offence by those whom opposed their requests.
“Marriage is a Human Right not a Heterosexual Privilege!”- This placard raises the issue of equality of the LGBT citizens compared to straight people in society. Marriage should be able to be between any people on the planet and not to a select group based on their sexual orientation. No Heterosexual should be able to dictate whether or not two people are legal to marry, and no Heterosexual should think that they have more rights than other people, especially in a country that considers them the “Land of the Free.”
The picture can also link to the social issues that have gone on in America in the past few years, like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”- a policy which prevented openly Gay and Lesbian military from serving in the United States Armed Forces. This policy was abolished by President Obama in 2010. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal then allowed the Armed Forces to accept openly Gay service men and women, and prompted many of the closeted members of the Forces to come out as Homosexual.
The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) also garnered the support of Barack Obama, a huge step forward for the equalisation of LGBT people in the US. This bill was proposed to the United States Congress against the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) stating that marriage was to be only between a man and a woman, which took effect in 1996. Former sponsors of DOMA have now offered their support to RFMA, like former President Bill Clinton who originally signed the DOMA bill in 1996.
In California, the In re Marriage Act was passed in the month of May 2008. This act would allow marriage between same-sex couples in the state of California. However, in November 2008 the Supreme Court passed the Proposition 8 bill which overruled the In re Marriage Act and limited marriage once again to be between opposite-sex couples only. Although, 85500 same-sex couples did marry between May and November that year in California and their nuptials are still recognised by the Supreme Court. The appeal against Proposition 8 was declared in February 2012 which would grant the bill unconstitutional, since then the Supreme Court has not yet responded to this appeal.
In African countries such as Uganda, LGBT peers have no protection from Homophobia and being Gay is illegal, punishable by death in the case of “repeat offenders.” Five other countries carry the death penalty for Homosexuality of any sort (Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Mauritania) as the major Islamic sects forbid Homosexuality and consider it a crime.
The signs and banners that the crowd is holding refers to the views of religion in America, such as Catholic, Christian, Mormon, and Judaism. The “Separate church & state!” sign could reflect the fact that most views of the US Government are religious views and stances on Homosexuality and education. California became the first state to teach the history of LGBT Equality in schools due to the passing of the FAIR Education Act legislation.
Same-sex marriage has since been legalised under state law in Illinois through civil unions. From June 2011, civil unions have been able to take place as the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act legislation was signed on January 31st, 2011. A same-sex marriage bill named Equal Marriage Act was introduced in January 2009 by Greg Harris, a representative. The bill again was pushed in February 2012 and had the support of Governor Pat Quinn. The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel also supports the bill. This shows the progress, albeit slow, that has happened not just in Chicago, but Illinois as a whole for Equal Rights and Marriage Equality in the space of the past eight years.