Equality doesn’t necessarily mean equal…

I’ve blogged about the fact that early on I lived a very sheltered life. I will never forget when I learned that homosexuality existed. I was a Freshman in college (yes, that’s right) and being a Theatre major I was sitting in the audience of the main stage facility watching the rehearsal of a scene that I was not in. One of the actors on stage was a super gorgeous guy, and I remember sitting next to a fellow actor, a young black man, and remarking on just how gorgeous I thought he was. He turned to me and said, “I know, we’re lovers.” I almost fell off of my chair. The idea of same sex love making had never occurred to me, ever! I couldn’t fathom the concept.

I remember going back to my dorm room and calling my mother asking her if she new that homosexuality existed. I was surprised at her matter-of-fact answer and when I asked her why she never told me, she simply said that the subject just never came up. That’s it, cased closed. So, know I knew about it. The next step was to determine how I felt about it.

Initially I was conflicted. As I mentioned earlier, the thought of same sex couples never crossed my mind. I was genuinely heterosexual there was no doubt. But how would I feel if someone judged me, persecuted me, denied me rights simply because I was heterosexual. I certainly would not like that. And what about my fellow actors? I liked them before I knew this about them, should I not like them now? The decision was easy to make. Who was I to judge anyone.

And now, so many years later, we are debating whether same sex couples can constitute a marriage and whether they should be afforded the rights and benefits that marriage creates. Equal rights under the law is the foundation of our constitution. And yet it all boils down to how human beings define equality. For years we defined it by white males. Then in 1963 with the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, we determined that we would “allow” equal rights to other races and we would “allow” equal pay for equal work to women and well as men (a right we are still struggling to achieve). Now in our infinite wisdom we feel that we have the right to define what marriage is and who we will “allow” to have marital rights and benefits. And although these decisions have been a long time coming, the mere fact is if we are truly the land of the free these rights should not have to be legislated in the first place. But we have given away the power to define equality under the law to human beings and what winds up happening is equality becomes defined by social or religious beliefs. The last time I heard, our founding fathers worked diligently to ensure the separation of church and state in running of our country.  But it is playing out in this debate big time, and it makes me wonder if we’re imposing the same bigotry on a segment of our population that we fought so hard to overcome in 1963.

Thank goodness the debate continues and it appears to have an unstoppable momentum. And like Roe v. Wade, it will probably be debated ad infinitum. But Roe v. Wade is the law, whereas same sex marriages are not. Let’s continue to fight until it’s the law so once again we can unequivocally state that our constitution truly supports equal rights under the law.

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