Fight for marriage equality, not gay marriage
For the most part, titles can lead to vague implications. One can imply that the movie “Spring Breakers” is going to have something to do with spring break and the magazine “Good Housekeeping” might include some articles that are related to cooking or cleaning. But when you hear “the fight for gay marriage” what does that imply? To many it implies the demand of the LGBT community to have their marriages be recognized as equal to the marriages of their heterosexual counterparts, but to me it’s a total misnomer.
When I hear about people fighting for gay marriage, I can’t help but feel that people are fighting for something separate from the traditional sense of marriage. Same-sex couples aren’t looking to get gay married, they just want to get married.
Let me explain.
Being a student here at the University of Illinois has taught me a lot. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of fascinating people from a countless number of different backgrounds and it has helped me to shape a new perspective on the things that make us different from everyone else. Being on a campus that promotes inclusiveness and diversity has given me a little glimpse of what’s beyond white middle-class suburbia.
Our differences make us stand out and mold us into the individuals we are. By being inclusive, we embrace those differences and help foster a community where no one is judged based on the color of their skin, gender, or who we love, but instead – in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – on the content of our character.
With the idea of inclusiveness in mind, it is important to note that gay people aren’t the only ones who are looking to legally get married. The LGBT community is as diverse as the general population. By calling this a fight for gay marriage, you’re leaving out lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals as well. This movement for making marriage a more inclusive institution should be beneficial to the array of individuals who identify themselves within the LGBT community and not just gay people.
When a fight for equal rights is pursued, a fight for inclusiveness follows. The LGBT community isn’t looking for something that’s separate but equal, they’re looking to be included with everyone else. In the broader scope, assimilating into the institution of marriage will show that while the LGBT community is still committed to maintaining its unique identity, they’re not that different from everyone else. They wake up, go to school, love their boyfriends or girlfriends, pursue their dreams, and aspire to settle down, get married, and maybe one day even have a family of their own.
In the early 20th century, before there was a 19th amendment, women were unable to vote. A social movement followed and in 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified and women won the right to vote. Women weren’t necessarily fighting for women’s voting rights, but women’s right to vote. Semantics make a difference: women’s voting rights implies that there is fundamental difference between the votes of men and the votes of women. Whereas a women’s right to vote imlplies that their votes are just as signficant as men’s. African-Americans were systematically discriminated against and denied some of their basic rights. But after a long fight, victory ensued when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. Both of these movements were a fight to be included in the same processes that everyone else experienced. These social movements didn’t create a divisive stigma but fought for the idea of liberty and justice for all.
What I’m proposing is a rebranding of the movement for gay marriage. Instead of fighting for gay marriage, let’s fight for marriage equality. It’s widely accepted that marriage is a union between two people who love each other and the federal government needs to recognize that. In the words of President Barack Obama, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Marriage equality embodies the idea of inclusiveness while maintaining unique individuality. It shows that we’re not just fighting for the rights of gay people, but for the LGBT community as a whole. It shows that while the LGBT community is a little more eccentric (go to Chicago Pride and you’ll know what I’m talking about), they’re still our brothers and sisters and our friends and family. Marriage equality implies that regardless of cultural differences, we recognize you as a human being who deserves the same rights as everyone else.
Words matter. Titles lead to implications. I don’t think I’m overthinking this, I just want the title of the fight to match what’s being fought for.
Matt is a freshman in LAS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpasquini.