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Our journey is not complete

A major campaign issue of the 2012 presidential election was gay marriage, but, as “The New York Times” points out, President Barack Obama may be modifying his original opinion.

MCT

MCT

In May of last year, Obama took a local stance on gay marriage in order to avoid losing support from the nation’s conservatives; each state would have the power to decide for themselves whether or not gay marriage should be legalized.

Obama stated in a May 9, 2012, ABC News interview, “Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue.”

By taking this course of action, only nine states and Washington, D.C., have equal rights for gays. Massachusetts was the first to recognize gay marriage in 2004, followed by Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maine and Maryland.

Forty-one states continue to ban gay marriage.

Interestingly enough, Obama’s attitude on the subject had a different tone when he discussed it in his Inaugural Address on Jan. 21.  He boldly announced that, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”

As of now, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 does not recognize same-sex marriage as legitimate before federal law. The act defines marriage as, “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’’

This is a clear example of explicit, government-regulated discrimination.

Even to speak in purely economic terms, marriage is a huge asset to any serious couple. Benefits include everything from health coverage, taxes and inheritance rights, all the way to hospital visitations during times of illness. Furthermore, “The New York Times” estimates that, “a same-sex couple denied marriage benefits will incur an additional $41,196 to $467,562 in expenses over their lifetime.”

Living in Massachusetts, it becomes easy to take these rights for granted. As one of the few states to provide equal services for all sexual orientations, a Bay Stater may forget that, in a majority of the nation, millions of Americans continue to struggle to receive the basic dignities granted through the United States Constitution. These rights are natural or, as some would say, self-evident.

That is the ideal described in the Declaration of Independence and has been a building block for the US ever since. It seems peculiar that as a country that holds a deep sense of pride in our civil liberties, and one that has made enormous strides in human rights, that there is still a massive volume of people for whom these dreams are just out of reach.

It does not make sense for an entire community of people to be denied constitutional rights because of gender, race or sexual orientation. As a nation, we have made vast improvements in the treatment of the first two, but we cannot stop there. Obama needs to initiate a change on a nationwide scale in order to move toward a more perfect union. There is no doubt it will be met with resistance, but our country was built on hard work; nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Denise O’Brien is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at dmobrien@student.umass.edu.

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