Gay marriage supported by human rights

By Steven Gillard

A gay-marriage supporter flies a rainbow flag during a rally in Seattle, Washington. (Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times/MCT)
A gay-marriage supporter flies a rainbow flag during a rally in Seattle, Washington. (Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times/MCT)

In the United States, the controversy over same-sex marriage seems to be never-ending. Within the past month, monumental changes have occurred throughout the United States in its support. On Feb. 26, a federal judge in Texas ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. On Feb. 27, same-sex marriages were legally recognized in Kentucky, although same-sex marriages themselves remain illegal. On March 7, a trial in Michigan that sought to end the ban on same-sex marriage concluded, and a decision is expected within the next two weeks.

Growing up in Massachusetts – the first state and sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize gay marriage – I often forget that I live in one of only seventeen states to recognize it as such. It is hard to believe that in other parts of the United States, gay people are still not treated as equal and are often the victims of violent crime.

I could argue for the legalization of gay marriage. I could explain how gay parents are no less capable of raising children than their straight counterparts. I could contest that the traditional view of marriage as a loving union between a man and a woman is a narrow, contemporary definition, one that has changed throughout history and will continue to change. I could explain how the belief that gay marriage represents a biological inconsistency and prevents procreation represents a grim, pathetic view of life itself.

But I won’t, because I don’t have to.

All I have to say is two words: human rights.

The aphorism “all men are created equal” is one commonly invoked when speaking about human rights, a “self-evident” truth  penned by Thomas Jefferson during the birth of our nation. As young students of American history, we take pride in such an axiom, as it asserts the “unalienable rights” all men have to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Only when we grow older do we learn that Jefferson was only speaking of white male property owners and that the United States was built upon the backs of black slaves who were considered less than human.

Slavery, which was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, remains firmly in the past for many Americans, an evil at which we shake our heads but for which we claim no responsibility. More than a century later, the prospect of using another man as property because of the color of his skin is considered preposterous, and rightfully so.

Similarly, the abuses suffered by blacks in the mid-twentieth century at the hands of segregation are also condemned as inhumane and misguided. Most of my generation views these times of racial inequality with a sense of incredulity: isn’t it obvious that all men are equal, regardless of their skin color?

Fast-forward to today and the battle against inequality is still raging; only this time, same-sex marriage is at its forefront. While the absurdity of racial discrimination is now widely acknowledged, many Americans today still voice their opposition to the marriage of gay couples.

To denounce slavery and segregation as inhumane and then claim that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry is the epitome of hypocrisy. It is the same hypocrisy we shamefully recognize when we compare the ideals professed in the Declaration of Independence to the reality of early America.

We now ascribe the phrase “all men are created equal,” to all men and women, regardless of race, sexual orientation or religion and look past the limited, prejudiced perspective the statement once embodied. If the United States is truly the “land of the free,” it must acknowledge all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation, as equal under the law.

All of the arguments for and against same-sex marriage boil down to the same point of contention: a person’s unsound belief that he or she, for whatever reason, can rightfully dictate the life of another to fit their own moral or religious code.

If you are against gay and lesbian relationships and find them repulsive or unholy or a violation of natural law, then you are entitled to that opinion. However, you are not entitled to tell a man or woman whom he or she can or cannot wed. You are not entitled to tell people they can or cannot pursue their happiness because you find the manner in which they do it incongruous with your own beliefs. One person’s happiness is no more or less valid than another’s, regardless of the way he or she chooses to acquire it.

As a lifelong citizen of Massachusetts, a state in which gay marriage has been legal for a decade, I am certain that in 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, when same-sex marriage is nationally legalized, those who protested loudly against it will look as ridiculous as those who protested against the Little Rock Nine as they walked through the doors of an all-white high school in 1957.

History repeats itself and those who have erred on the side of prejudice and discrimination have been proven foolish, time and time and time again.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]