As the Supreme Court hears arguments regarding the legality and validity of denying marriage to gay and lesbian American citizens, I can’t help but look at this through the parenting lens. I struggle to understand what someone would say to their child to support the idea that some of our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens don’t deserve the same opportunities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. That some of their classmates, teachers or family members are less than others. That they are not equal. That they don’t deserve to live like the rest of us. That they are second class citizens.
In my mind, this is a civil rights issue. This is about saying that ALL law-abiding, tax-paying citizens are equal. When some people argue that the LGBT population can have civil unions, but not marriage, all I can think of is the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s. They can drink out of that fountain, but not mine. They can ride the same bus as me, but they need to sit in the back. They can get an education, but only in a separate school. They can have a committed relationship, but it can’t be labeled like mine. We’ve come a long way from that line of thinking regarding race. Now it’s time to stand up and say, unequivocally, that ALL law-abiding citizens in this great nation are equal and deserve the same opportunities. We cannot allow laws that discriminate against any of us to stand. Not as they apply to us as adults now, and not as they will affect our children when they are grown.
I don’t think that my kids are more special than any others. I don’t expect them to be treated differently than anyone else. I certainly don’t want them to think that they should be. It’s just a matter of the Golden Rule. I want them to treat others as they want to be treated. It’s really that simple.
It’s also an important lesson for my children to know that people should only be judged by the content of their character and their actions, not by their exterior. While the way someone dresses or wears their hair can give you an indication of their interests, desires or personality, it’s not the whole picture. I don’t want my children to be judged based on their hair, skin or eye color just as much as I don’t want them to judge anyone else based on those things. To me, being LGBT or not fits into that same category.
I don’t believe that being LGBT is a choice. Honestly, who would choose to be ridiculed and shunned? To be exiled by family and friends? To live a life where others tell them that they are less than? To live with fewer rights and opportunities than their brothers and sisters and parents? I don’t think that anyone chooses to be LGBT any more than they choose the shape of their mouth, ears, fingers or toes.
People can show us their true colors through actions. I want my kids to base their opinions of others on that. Do they treat people and animals with kindness and respect? Do they help others in need? Will they stand up for someone who is being mistreated? Are they abusive? Are they honest? Do they hurt others intentionally? How do they treat you?
Those are some of the questions I want my children asking when making assessments about someone. Not whether or not they love someone of the same gender. That doesn’t speak to their character any more than whether their hair is straight or curly.
I realize that many people call on religious beliefs to support their ideas that marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples. The problem, though, with enacting laws based on those beliefs is that the First Amendment doesn’t allow it. It’s one of the great tenets of this nation ensuring religious freedom for all of us. None of us can use our own religion to force any other to do or not do something. We certainly can’t make laws based on religion.
Anyone can choose to follow–or not follow–any religion. We can also choose to use our spiritual teachings to guide our personal decisions and actions as we wish. We can raise and parent our children according to our religious beliefs. The way we each live can be based on the lessons of our religion, but we cannot infringe on others’ rights to make their own choices. We cannot push our faith-based beliefs into laws that limit the rights and freedoms of other American citizens. While I can lead a life based on Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist or any other teachings, I can’t deny another person their legal rights based on my beliefs. Additionally, no one can be granted more legal rights, freedoms or opportunities based on their religious beliefs.
No church should be forced to perform a wedding that goes against their beliefs, but to say that ‘because my church doesn’t believe in marriage for gay or lesbian couples no LGBT couples should be allowed to get married’ doesn’t work in this country. That’s what’s guaranteed as a right and a personal freedom for you and me and every other American citizen by the First Amendment. It’s what’s guaranteed for our children … and I hope that’s what is decided by the Supreme Court.
I want my children to grow up knowing that everyone in this country has the same opportunity to live and love and pursue happiness … that we all deserve to be treated fairly with equal rights. That we ALL deserve to love and be loved. And that love–of every color–matters.
**I am aware that this is a topic about which many people feel passionately. I welcome all opinions and comments. I just ask that you please be respectful.