Author: Lucy Feickert
Same-sex marriage is now legal in Maine, Maryland and Washington. The President of the United States supports gay marriage. More than 39 percent of the American population lives in a state in which same-sex marriage or domestic partnership is legal, according to Freedom to Marry. The movement toward universal same-sex marriage is gaining momentum, and the collective American mindset appears to be shifting toward acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Past grassroots action has effected change to a certain extent, but it is time to continue to fight for marriage equality and LGBT rights. It is time to draw to a close the era of treating same-sex love as less than heterosexual love.
The 2012 election is the first time that same-sex marriage has been legalized through direct democracy with a popular vote, as in the cases of Maine, Maryland and Washington, rather than through legislative means and court action. In a country in which more than 50 percent of the population supports same-sex marriage, according to a May 2012 Gallup Poll, same-sex marriage ballot measures can only benefit the fight for equality. The democratic process should continue to propel this wave of change and end marriage inequality. Inarguably the people of Maine, Maryland and Washington have spoken out in support of same-sex marriage, and residents of other states should be given that same opportunity to end this injustice.
In the United States, a country that believes it must set an example for the world, we are too far behind in the case of marriage equality. Countries such as Spain, Canada and South Africa have already legalized gay marriage. France just passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and same-sex couples’ ability to adopt children across the country on Nov. 7. With these examples, among others, America needs to match and surpass our current standards of equality.
America was founded upon principles of equal rights and justice. Those ideas have shifted to include all races and genders as times changed and the world has developed. Now, as the world has increased its acceptance and embrace for the emergence of the LGBT community, and the gay and lesbian population grows in size and prominence, it is time to reconsider old ideas of equality and archaic definitions of marriage.
The LGBT population has increased at a greater rate in the United States than the general population has increased, according a series of surveys distributed across the country by the Williams Institute last year. As American citizens, we should not be confined by old standards and definitions, but rather be able to adjust laws and the structure of our society as times change.
Beyond the legalization of same-sex marriage, accepting LGBT rights as equal in America is certainly the pivotal civil rights issue of our time. The number of openly gay politicians elected to public office increased dramatically in this election, with one, Tammy Baldwin, reaching the United States Senate. Stacie Laughton was the first openly transgender person elected to a statewide office position as well. This public acceptance of LGBT individuals in office signals a shift in American public opinion, and emphasizes that now is a time to work even harder to fight for equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.
For the future of the country, we can no longer pretend that the issue of same-sex marriage doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t matter to the population. Nor can we pretend that is is acceptable to deny the right to marry to any subset of the population, regardless of its size. As the social and political climate is becoming increasing receptive to gay rights and marriage equality, we need to continue to take action and affect change for equality, both in the United States and across the globe.
Lucy Feickert is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at [email protected]
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