The Activist Within Me: Why I Fight for Marriage Equality

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I was standing outside of the House of Blues in downtown San Diego when it was announced that Barack Obama had been elected as the 44th president of the United States of America. Since my mom and I were waiting in line to get into the San Diego Democratic Party election night celebration, cheers filled the street, hugs were exchanged and there was an overwhelming state of elation. But as I watched the local poll results on the television screens inside the House of Blues, I was shocked to see that Proposition 8—the controversial proposition that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry—was passing by more than a few percentage points. I remember the exact feeling that I experienced when I saw the result on the screen; it felt like my stomach had dropped to my legs and I instantly started to choke up. That night, I lay in bed incredibly conflicted. I was extremely excited about the fact that we as a nation had elected Obama, but at the same time I was deeply saddened about California’s decision to pass Proposition 8. The only thing that comforted me was the possibility of a dramatic change in percentage points. But as the night went on, Proposition 8 was on its way to becoming official. And by the next day, it was done.
I am not gay.
Now, I do not say this because I am afraid of being called gay, but I just want to put into context that it is not only the gay community that is fighting for marriage equality, but straight people as well. I believe that it is my responsibility as a person with the privilege of someday marrying whichever man I fall in love with to help my fellow citizens gain the right to marry their loved ones, even if he or she is the same gender.
Some of the things I have done over the past few years to help push for marriage equality include donating to the Human Rights Campaign, displaying No On 8 stickers and signs before the election, attending a “Light Up the Night for Equality” candlelight vigil and attending a No On 8 protest in St. Louis, among other things. I am a trainer for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, an organization that helps students establish GSA's in their schools as well as fight discrimination they face in the classroom. This year, I plan to get even more involved, and hopefully I will be able to continue my work through college, and if needed, beyond. This cause is very important to me, and I want to work as hard as I can without violence to promote understanding and equality.
But why should I care so much? Why should a straight 18-year-old high school student care?

First of all, I have a number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) friends and neighbors. I have talked to them and seen the pain that they felt after Proposition 8 passed as well as the isolation that they feel as a result of day-to-day discrimination. From what I personally have experienced, I can say that I am certain that being gay is not a choice, and it hurts me to see that many people are unwilling or unable to accept that others may have a different sexual orientation than they do. I think that if we as a culture we able to talk more openly about the subject of homosexuality and marriage, more understanding and acceptance would emerge between gay, bisexual and straight people.

Another reason that I care so much about marriage equality is that it is hard for me to live knowing that a group of Americans is suffering and not do anything about it. I was taught by my parents growing up that I should always stand up for equality and love, not hate and separation. I also remember a poster in my first grade classroom that read “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” I still try to live my life by these elementary, yet unyielding, principles.

But what makes me the most angry are the people who have called the decision to support marriage equality “un-Christian” or “blasphemous.” I do not in any way believe this to be true. I myself am a Christian, and many gay people consider themselves Christians as well. I could go on for hours explaining why I think that the Bible and gay marriage are entirely compatible. To put it simply, though, one of the passages that I feel explains my opinion the best is in Mark 12:33, which says, “…to love your neighbor as yourself is far more important than all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this, I believe that Jesus’ direct message of brotherly love is only second to God’s love. It is not my right to decide who is a Christian or not based on their personal beliefs, and I do not want people to dismiss me as a sinner because I believe that two people who love each other very much should have the right to experience the joys and difficulties of marriage.

Ultimately, it comes down to human rights. A lot of people say that civil unions are a good enough compromise because they give gay couples more rights without “redefining” the institution of marriage. This is not a valid argument, though. What little kids says “I want to get a civil union when I grow up”? None that I have ever known, that’s for sure. This is because marriage, the union of two loving adults, is at the root of what we consider the “American Dream.” Denying gay couples the right to marry is denying them the ability to fully achieve the American Dream. The United States, which was created with the basic intent of equality and freedom, has yet to fulfill this promise to the gay men and women working and paying taxes. As shown by segregation in twentieth century America, “separate but equal” does not work. Because same-sex couples are not allowed to get married like straight couples, there is inherent discrimination against this group of Americans.

As my mom and I drove home on the night of November 4, the political pundits on the radio were trying to explain why Proposition 8 passed. Some said it was the minority vote, some said it was the Mormons, some said it was a homophobic version of the “Bradley effect.” I cannot blame any of these groups. They fought for what they believed was the right thing, just as I try to do. The passing of Proposition 8 just means that during the next election, I am going to have to step up and work even harder than I do now to make marriage equality a thing of the past.





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