Now is the Time
“It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Barack Obama, January 21, 2013
On January 21st, Barack Hussein Obama became the first president to mention the word “gay” in a presidential inauguration speech. Certainly he won’t be the last. But it was this pioneering spirit that made me cheer a little louder on that brisk Washington morning, while my other fellow spectators on the Mall awkwardly golf-clapped through the planned pause in his speech. It is time we push the issue of same-sex marriage forward.
I used to think this was not the right time. Surely in a few generations, equality for the LGBT community will no longer be an issue. We will have left that prejudice behind as our society progresses into a more enlightened point of view. So why not wait until the issue is less divisive? I thought that Gavin Newsom, as brave as he was, made a mistake back in 2004 when he made gay marriage legal in San Francisco. He pushed this issue into the national spotlight before its time had come. And as a backlash, 27 additional states made same-sex marriage illegal (it is illegal in 31 states, compared to only 9 who have made it legal). But I was wrong. Without pioneers like Newsom, the marriage issue would still be hiding in the closet. How long would the civil rights movement taken without like likes of Rosa Parks? Why should same-sex couples sit in the back of the marriage bus, waiting for the country to come around? They shouldn’t. Now is the time to move forward.
Because after all, same-sex marriage and gay rights are some of the last civil rights hurdles that America has to overcome. It is a civil rights issue. By not allowing someone to marry who they want, we are impinging on the free choices of someone who was born a certain way. That is the definition of a civil rights violation. If we truly believe that everyone in this country is equal, we must treat everyone as equal.
By bringing this to the national stage, President Obama joins the ranks of civil rights pioneers. Some will argue this is an issue better decided by the states. I couldn’t disagree more. If we leave this up to individual states, you will have a whole section of the country breeding ignorance and bigotry. This can only serve to drive the left and the right further apart in a time where the division between left and right is already immense. If future generations grow up in states where same-sex marriage is illegal, they miss the golden opportunity to learn to accept that this diversity really isn’t that diverse. And that people who are LGBT really want what everyone else wants: to find a love, settle down, and carve out a better life for themselves. They should not have to choose to live in a different state, moving away from friends and family, just because a prejudiced bias will not allow them to make the choices they wish to make. If we leave this up to states to decide, we create two separate nations: one where people are free to make the choices they wish and one where bigotry is allowed to flourish. With no other group would we ever say, “Oh, if you want to get married, just move to another state.” As late as 1967, some states still had laws on the books forbidding interracial marriages. But in 2012, no one would ever say, “You are black, so you have to move to a different state to get married.” And since we know that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather a trait one is born with, how can we, as a nation, discriminate against this group by making them pack up and leave, just because they want to marry the person they love.
The other anti-gay marriage arguments are flimsy at best. The main argument being that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman because it says so in the Bible. However, the Bible also repeatedly allowed for multiple wives, which we have long done away with in the United States. Another argument says allowing same-sex marriage would increase our staggeringly high divorce rate, further weakening the institution of marriage. But with a national divorce rate hovering around 50%, I’m not sure how much worse we could get. Given that same-sex couples have been fighting for so long to earn the right to marry, chances are they will enter the contract with more gravity than most. Allowing same-sex marriage will most likely improve the national divorce rate. The flimsiest of arguments is the “slippery slope,” that by allowing same-sex marriage, we are somehow opening the eventual door to marriage between man and beast. But how many bestiality pride parades have you seen? There is not a mass movement for any of the “slopes” that may be slippery; just one massive movement to bring equality and justice to everyone who deserves it.
France now sits poised to join the 11 other countries which have legalized the institution of marriage for same-sex couples. While this will not be an easy battle, the time has come to end bigotry against homosexuals in the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guarantees freedom from discrimination based on race, gender, religion or ethnicity, was signed into national law for the entire country. We now must finish the task of ensuring civil rights for 100% of Americans, not just in a few states, but across the entire country.
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