Today, many people view LGBT individuals and their families as socially unacceptable in much the same way that society once viewed illegitimate children. Both of these groups have been shamed and stigmatized.

Back in the day, illegitimate children suffered from the serious stigma associated with the circumstances of their birth – namely that their parents had had a child out of wedlock. These children faced much hurt and injustice as a result of the strong stigmatization and legal ramifications of their illegitimate status. Although it is evident that having children out of wedlock is not ideal, the way in which society responded was solely detrimental. Fortunately, in the U.S. a series of Supreme Court decisions in the early 1970s abolished the laws penalizing illegitimate children citing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In addition, the nearly complete destigmatization of illegitimate children has allowed them to be elevated to equal status within society.

The history of the legal status and eventual destigmatization of illegitimate children shows that it is both possible and beneficial to separate one’s own beliefs about the situation from the way in which society chooses to treat a group of people. Validating such a group does not require affirmation. Continuing with the example of illegitimate children, the fact that society chose to abolish the laws that penalized them does not mean that society favors the birth of children out of wedlock. It is not necessary to pass a value judgment of “good” or “ideal” on a situation or group of people in order to validate that group in the eyes of society. Has the time come for society to legitimize the status of LGBT individuals regardless of the value statements that are made?


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