STIRRETT: Advancing Gay Rights
A Canadian Contention
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 18:02
Fifty years ago, same-sex marriage would have been as unthinkable as a man named Barack Hussein Obama being elected President of the United States. In 2012, rather than being an issue discussed at the margins, gay marriage has become one of the most debated topics in national discourse, finding strong critics and advocates in people from Rick Santorum to Lady Gaga.
On one side, some argue that one of the greatest threats to the institution of marriage is allowing gays and lesbians to marry their partners. Such people claim that marriage is a covenant that has lasted thousands of years and has always been defined as a union between one man and one woman.
For a long time, I found these arguments appealing. I believed that those in the LGBTQ community should be allowed to form civil unions, but that marriage should be available solely to heterosexual couples. Eventually my views began to evolve, and I now am a supporter of marriage equality.
During my first few years at Georgetown, I've realized my religious beliefs are not an impediment to my support for marriage equality. Rather it is my faith in God that drives me to support the equality of all people — especially when it comes to marriage.
Letting gays and lesbians marry does nothing to infringe upon the rights of heterosexuals. Marriage is not a finite substance that can ever be exhausted. What does infringe upon individual rights, however, is prohibiting a certain group to marry at all.
Evidently, I have not been the only person who has had his or her views evolve on this subject. Across American society, the trend of support for marriage equality has steadily increased. According to a study by the Pew Foundation, support for same-sex marriage has increased from 27 percent in 1996 to 46 percent in 2011.
These shifts are being driven by the millenial generation, who support marriage equality at a rate of nearly 60 percent. It is only a matter of time before the overwhelming majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
With that in mind, there is still much work to be done when it comes to improving the rights of gay Americans. On a national level, gays and lesbians are discriminated against through the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies couples numerous legal benefits of marriage at a federal level. The bullying of gay teenagers in the United States remains a serious problem and has resulted in a countless number of tragic suicides. Rather than banning the discussion of homosexuality, school districts should work to actually foster inclusive environments for all students, which will ultimately save lives.
Nevertheless, under the Obama administration, there have been major strides in LGBTQ rights. President Obama eliminated the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which banned openly homosexual people from serving in the armed services. Moreover, it is now official U.S. policy to support LGBTQ rights internationally, such as opposing Uganda's blatantly discriminatory anti-homosexuality law.
Maybe I am an optimist, but I believe that though the arc of history may have its bumps, in the long run, the human condition is improving. Advocating for full equality for members of the LGBTQ community is part of continuing to provide justice for all.
On this issue, Americans have come a long way in a short time. It is hard to fathom that just 10 years ago, anti-sodomy laws existed in 14 states. The recent ruling of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Proposition 8, which ended gay marriage in California, is yet another step in the right direction. It will only be a matter of time before this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, where we can only hope marriage equality will finally be established nationwide.
To those on the fence about supporting gay marriage, I understand your dilemma: I myself agonized over the issue. However, it is important to ask yourself the question of whether the love that exists between heterosexual and homosexual couples is fundamentally different. Both types of relationships are based upon trust, friendship and the thousands of little moments that take place over a lifetime.
The coalition for marriage equality is growing rapidly, marked by its diversity in backgrounds and perspectives. There can be no "separate but equal." Providing equal rights to all Americans, including those gay and straight, is the civil rights issue of this generation.
Scott Stirrett is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He is the former chief of staff of the Georgetown University College Democrats and former chair and co-founder of D.C. Students Speak. A CANADIAN CONTENTION appears every other Friday.