We the people have the right of life, liberty and happiness

Posted on 14 November 2012 by admin

Taylor talks about the divide between gay rights and those who oppose them.

By: Taylor Menke
-Staff Writer-

A 15-year-old is stabbed while waiting for her bus. A violent arson fire engulfs a nightclub, killing 32. A 3-year-old boy is beaten to death for being a “sissy.” A young man is murdered and dismembered by his stepfather. A young woman and her partner are shot several times when seen together in a public park; her partner survives, but she is not as fortunate. An 18-year-old male is beaten, strangled, stabbed, partially decapitated, doused in gasoline and set aflame.

Each of these individuals were attacked because of the perceived crime of homosexuality. These were not random, barbaric incidents that occurred overseas or in another lifetime — each death, each attack, each act of hatred and indecency happened within the U.S., many in the last ten years. The list does not end there. Indeed, every day it grows longer and longer, both domestically and internationally.

When politicians, celebrities and average Americans talk about gay marriage they are typically met with three less-than-desirable reactions. One, the response is a quick nod of agreement. Two, there is virulent hatred. Three, and perhaps most damaging of all, is a yawn and a sneer, because surely there are more important issues to discuss than whether two men should be able to marry?

Less than a month ago, CNN published the results of a Gallup telephone poll in which 3.4 percent of respondents, on average, identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or another non-heterosexual, non-cisgender identity.

The highest percentage of self-identified LGBT were young, poor and uneducated, with blacks and Latinos identifying most frequently (5.6 percent and four percent respectively, compared to 3.2 percent for white Americans).

“It is absurd that such a small percentage of the population has such a huge voice and is moving our country toward moral debauchery,” one anonymous user on CNN’s website said, concisely summarizing the general attitude within the comments section. At first glance the statistics do seem troubling. For years, the LGBT community has touted the 10 percent demographic. But that number might still hold water.

For one thing, the poll occurred within the U.S. and did not involve any global input or interviews, making its authority on LGBT affairs worldwide limited. Secondly, the discrepancy between ethnic groups, political affiliation, economic status and education level indicates that the conditions for “coming out” even for the purpose of anonymous polling can be difficult to do.

Who is more likely to reveal that they are gay, lesbian or transgender? A white, adult male in the upper 1 percent, or a poor, female ethnic minority whose status as a patriotic American citizen is already questioned?

Even if the number could be proven accurate, universal and objective, the amount of individuals in an oppressed group does not affect their right to enjoy civil liberties as elaborated in the equal protections clause of the U.S. constitution. 3.4 percent may be a small number, but it is still a number, and applied to the population of the United States comprises over 10 million people.

To compare, there are a little more than five million Jews, three million American Indians, 500,000 individuals with autism, and 400,000 foster children under 18 living in this country. Do these “small numbers” not deserve our recognition and attention? Do they not deserve rights? Are they merely a tiny annoyance we pay dignity and respect to only when we do not have more important matters on our minds?

Legally, marriage is the union of two consenting adults for the purposes of financial levity and social responsibility. There are a wide array of rights that come hand-in-hand with legal marriage contracts: property and income tax deductions, immigration sponsorship, joint filing of bankruptcy, joint ownership of property, joint custody of children, family visitation rights, domestic violence protection, spousal and parental medical decisions and many more.

These are protections allowed heterosexual partnerships but not homosexual ones. This is financial disenfranchisement – or in other words, making it difficult or impossible for LGBT to have the same opportunities as heterosexuals.

This discriminatory policy has existed on the basis of so-called religious freedom, but religion has nothing to do with marriage as a state concept. Gays and lesbians are already free to marry in churches, synagogues and other places of worship, so long as these places approve performing the ceremony. This is because they are protected by the first amendment to worship as they choose, even if this means they are violating another individual’s religious principles.

For example, two men can get married at their church if their church is willing to officiate the ceremony. Their union, however, is not recognized legally – they will receive no rights, responsibilities or benefits from the marriage.

The confusion between civil and religious marriage has caused a cacophony of grief for many people and their families.

“Gay marriage” is a symbolic term. There are concrete, tangible rights and benefits associated with the union, but it is also a measure of equality. Whenever these individuals are denied their constitutionally assured rights, they are only reminded of blood, death, torture and state-sanctioned bigotry. Do not let yourself be touched by this strange apathy towards fellow human beings just because the numbers are not strong enough. A minority may be a minority, but that does not lessen their right to be protected.

GRAPHIC BY Lilly Huxhold

 

GRAPHIC BY Lilly Huxhold

 

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