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Small steps lead to big changes in LGBT lives

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As any social movement matures, its foot soldiers discover that they must address the unsexy, nuts-and-bolts issues that have a deeper, less-obvious impact on society. Such issues don't often translate into splashy headlines, and they require hard work. But the efforts often pay off in people's daily lives.

The LGBT movement, which traditionally has focused on equality, is no different. For many, same-sex marriage has become a rallying cry for gays and lesbians around the country, aided by celebrities and everyday folks alike.

Equality certainly is a noble goal, one that we would never denigrate. And many of the civil liberties that come with marriage — such as spousal rights at hospitals — are certainly important.

But Georgia, one of the reddest of red states, currently has a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage. And the state's all-Republican, all-male, all-white leadership has shown no sign that it's willing to revisit the subject.

Beyond a discussion of the push for marriage equality is a capitulation to mainstream values, we wonder if there aren't issues that deserve to be given higher priority by gay activists in Georgia. There are real, pressing problems that affect the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Georgians that we could — and should — be addressing. It's arguably better to take a page from the playbook of the feminist movement in Europe, which advocated for incremental changes to the system, rather than the noble yet foggy notion of "equality" that was the goal of U.S. activists.

Where to start? Many local governments and corporations in Georgia still do not offer domestic partner benefits to LGBT employees. Every year, LGBT activists bite their nails over whether the state will adequately fund a program that helps people living on low incomes receive HIV/AIDS medication, and which has a waiting list of nearly 1,800 people. The state and some local governments still lack safeguards to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

It's not just LGBT adults that need attention. Gay children and teens — and the few organizations that cater to their needs — deserve better support. Gay foster kids, some of whom are impossible to place in safe and caring homes, become lost in a bureaucratic maze rather than enjoying their lives like any other child. Bullying in schools and communities remains a problem.

Many groups, including Georgia Equality, have slogged through the Gold Dome and local governments to push for these changes. It's time they received a little help. The little battles, as arduous as they might be, lead to tiny victories, which add up and result in greater change.

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