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What if You Couldn’t Marry the One You Love?

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On November 4, while our country took a great step forward by electing Barack Obama, some states took steps backward. In California, Proposition 8 passed, effectively banning same-sex marriages, which had previously been allowed due to a California Supreme Court ruling. Similar initiatives passed in Arizona and Florida. In Arkansas, an initiative passed that bans unmarried couples from adopting children. The initiative was largely aimed at the gay and lesbian community.

It saddens me that despite how far our country has come where civil rights are concerned, there is still discrimination and inequality in our system.

How is this issue any different than laws of the past that prevented people of different races from marrying? Anti-miscegenation laws existed in most states until 1967, when Loving v. Virginia was decided in the United States Supreme Court, effectively overturning these laws and allowing hundreds of thousands of mixed-race couples to marry and have equal protection under the law.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard numerous and widely-varying arguments surrounding same-sex marriage. I’ve heard some people state that same-sex couples should be allowed civil unions, which can offer many of the same benefits that are offered to married couples. To me, this argument is nothing more than the “separate but equal” arguments of the civil rights era. Separate is not equal under the law, and treating same-sex couples as second-class citizens is simply not acceptable.

Ironically, a large percentage of African-Americans voted against marriage equality (69 percent, according to CNN). This is attributed to the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be religious than Caucasians, but I find it difficult to accept that this group of people could support such an outright display of discrimination against a specific group.

I wonder if people would feel differently about this issue if they put themselves in the shoes of the thousands of same-sex couples out there—what if the government told you that you couldn’t marry the person of your choice? Or how about your children? If you had a gay son or daughter, wouldn’t you want them to be able to marry and have the same opportunity for happiness as everyone else?

Before the votes for Proposition 8 in California were all tallied, attorneys in San Francisco and elsewhere in the state were drafting arguments to have Proposition 8 overturned. I applaud their efforts and hope that Proposition 8 and other unfair initiatives that discriminate against the gay and lesbian community will soon just be a painful memory, much like the anti-miscegenation laws and “separate but equal” arguments that still taint our history books from the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. Discrimination and bigotry are never acceptable, and hopefully there will be a day when our country is free of fear of those who are different.


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