Last semester, the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted an extremely informative Diversity Dialogue titled “In the Wake of Prop 8” on the issue of marriage equality.
During this panel, Director of Theatre Arts and Dance Jennifer Cavenaugh explained the importance of language, encouraging people to say “marriage equality” and not “gay marriage,” as the latter implies that it is a reward not being given instead of a right not being afforded.
Well-known Central Florida LGBT activist and longtime lawyer Mary Meeks pointed out that heterosexual couples enjoy 1,200 rights and privileges of marriage that same-sex couples do not.
Currently, this is legally sanctioned by the government and is not “benefiting the LGBT community while trampling on others.” In fact, this is trampling on the rights of that community based on the factor of identity; this is the very definition of discrimination.
While I applaud the urging of individuals to take pride in their own identities and take an individualist approach to life, the argument has a few issues. By calling it a “lifestyle,” the word inherently connotes that it is a choice. This is wholly wrong and just plain insulting.
Also, I truly appreciate a person outside a minority group trying to understand its issues and struggles. This is the epitome of being an ally to a community, and allies are such a pivotal part of any struggle. However, for any person to suggest to gay people that their struggle to enjoy 1,200 rights denied them based on their identity, which they cannot choose or control, is not a pressing issue, is an indulgence, and of no real concern to others, is once again insulting.
Individualism is a highly prized American ideology, and I believe it serves its purposes. But when an entire group is being trampled, beaten, murdered, raped and degraded for its identities, it is time for them to take a stand as a collective. Until you fall in love with a person, go to the Orange County courthouse and ask for a marriage license, humiliated by being denied solely because you are both of the same sex, you cannot understand the mindset of that community.
As a self-identified bisexual in a long-term relationship with a wonderful person of the same sex, my hackles understandably went up reading the recent article about marriage equality. LGBT people are not trying to flaunt their sexualities. And yes, we protest. But only because we are not given the freedom to be individuals who choose to spend the rest of our lives with someone and be afforded the same rights and privileges.
When having this very same conversation previously, a family member asserted that I should not be upset about not being allowed to marry because I can go right ahead and do what I want to do and just be with that person for the rest of my life. Who cares about the title?
It is not about the title. It is about the government legally giving straight couples the right to adopt a child and put both names of the parents on the certificate. Why can my partner and I not get tax benefits? How come we cannot have a child that is both of ours?
Twelve hundred is a large number of rights and privileges to enjoy, but only if you are heterosexual. That is why the issue is being protested and handled as a collective: because it is more than just an individual’s problem.
Readers, if you are heterosexual, remember this. When you go to the courthouse with your perfect someone, on that day when you are most happy, you will be given permission to marry with no second thought.
I, however, will be turned down and shown once again that I am not as important as you are.