I have a confession to make. I was not always as deeply passionate about gay rights as I am today. In fact, I grew up in a religious cult where I was taught homosexuality was a sin. But as fate would have it everything changed after I became an adult.
My family came around and left the cult. I moved out at 18 and got a gay roommate. He was so awesome and changed my entire world view around gay people. Then my little brother came out when he was only 14 years old. I was so inspired by his bravery to publicly admit being gay while still trapped in the cruel and judgmental world of high school. It was my realization of the difficulties my brother and roommate faced that fired me up to become and outspoken supporter of gay rights.
Needless to say the news that the Supreme Court would review the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 made my heart skip a beat. The stakes are high as the outcome offers the greatest potential to expand marriage equality across the country and affect federal benefits for same sex couples already married. It is a truly historic moment that will establish further precedents for the next chapter of marriage equality for better or worse.
I remember when Proposition 8 was put on the California state ballot in 2008. I had been so sure my liberal state would never allow it. But as the election results came in the realization that I was oh so wrong was crushing. It was difficult to sleep that night knowing so many people I care about were sent a clear message that society still deems them unworthy of the same rights as ‘the rest of us.’ I was outraged and I felt a little bit of hope slipping away. If my liberal state of California couldn’t show support for same-sex marriage how could there be hope for other states?
I’m happy to say that since then other states DID legalize same-sex marriage. As of November 2012, nine states have legalized gay marriage. That is a big improvement when you consider in 2008 it was just Massachusetts (go Mass!) I know there is still a long way to go but consider this; the first gay marriage case in U.S. Supreme Court was Baker v. Nelson in 1972 and was dismissed “for want of a substantial federal question.” In other words, the court did not view same sex couples as having the right to marry under the Constitution and wouldn’t even consider hearing the case. When you look at it that way nine states is a HUGE improvement!
There are many signs that today the tide is quickly changing in favor of equal marriage rights in the U.S. A recent Pew poll shows the slight majority of Americans are now in favor of legalizing gay marriage. This is a large shift from the previous survey in 2003 wherein 58% of Americans were opposed. The survey suggests that many Americans have changed their minds in support of same sex marriage because they know someone who is gay. Much like my experience, it’s hard to demonize people once you get to know them.
Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued for the first time a policy statement that it favors “civil marriage for same-gender couples — as well as full adoption and foster care rights for parents regardless of their sexual orientation….” Dr. Benjamin Siegel, chair of the group’s committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health, and a co-author of the policy pronouncement said in a statement, “Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage.” This is significant as it takes credibility away from the argument that same-sex couples would pose a threat to the mental well being of a child.
This is a pivotal time in American history and I would say the biggest civil rights movement of my generation. Majority opinion has changed dramatically over the last ten years, as has public policy. Both sides of the argument are working tirelessly toward very different end goals. This is the time to show your support and make your voice heard. It can be anything as simple as posting articles and links to your Facebook page, to writing your elected representative and letting them know you want equal marriage rights for everyone. This issue may not affect you directly, but as long as any group of Americans are denied their civil rights can we truly and proudly proclaim we live in the land of the free?
Guest contributor Teresa Camp is and Administrative Coordinator by day and singing, belly dancer by night. She is lead singer, lyricist and choreographer for the band Arcane Dimension founded with her husband in 2004. She has danced and performed internationally with Troupe Joweh. When not dancing or singing she loves to cook, write, read and make art/performance videos. You can view her YouTube videos here.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia