Why equality is unequivocal
Over the past few months I’ve been vocal about my support of equality and my refusal to support political candidates that won’t support marriage equality. That stand has prompted a large number of discussions about equality, marriage equality and “political reality.”
Through the course of discussions I’ve been told by a number of friends, and others whom I respect, that I should be a bit more accepting and allow for people to “evolve” on the subject. I’ve been told that there are more issues at stake than just marriage equality and that it’s important to elect candidates that support some of my ideals – even if they fall short on this particular one.
I’ve given these arguments a good bit of thought, and while the idea of “single-issue” voting normally scares the hell out of me, on this one I’m going to hold firm.
For me the issue of marriage equality isn’t really about marriage. I believe that every person has the right to love and marry the person of their choice without governmental interference, but that’s not the fundamental basis of my commitment to marriage equality. It’s the second word of the phrase: equality.
I believe that every person has the right to be treated equally under the law. If there are rights and privileges associated with the institution of marriage, then those rights and privileges should be extended to all legal adults that choose to enter into said relationship.
That, however, isn’t the root of the argument. For me it goes deeper. Why are rights and privileges reserved for some, and denied others? If a politician came forward today to argue that an African-American man should not be allowed to marry a Caucasian woman the uproar would be heard immediately, from coast to coast. Telling two people they aren’t allowed to marry based on race is bigotry, and it’s wrong. So why is it not unacceptable bigotry for a candidate (or elected official) to claim that marriage between two people of the same sex should be prohibited by law?
It’s been argued that there are religions that believe that marriage should be exclusive to one man and one woman, and hence, this is an issue of religious freedom. That, in my mind, flies in the face of real religious freedom. Freedom of religion, as outlined in the First Amendment, gives us the right to believe (or not believe) according to the dictates of our own conscience. It not only protects religion from government, but sets a clear boundary that religious belief should not be institutionalized into law.
If your personal beliefs and faith indicate that marriage is between a man and a woman, by all means, don’t marry someone of the same gender. You have every right. What you don’t have, however, is the right to impose that belief on other people through the force of law. That is where you’ve crossed the line of “religious freedom.”
The bottom line is this: denying anyone the rights and privileges allowed to others on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is discrimination. It’s bigotry. And it’s wrong, fundamentally wrong. Denying those rights and privileges indicates to me a very deep character flaw: that the person actually believes that there are some people who are more (or less) deserving of the rights and privileges associated with being a member of our society; that there is, at some level, a fundamental difference between people that makes some of us “less worthy” than others.
That is not my community, not my America. And I will do everything in my power to work for a Utah and an America where all of us are truly equal under the law.