Equality – the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability.
Reading that definition, equality seems like such a simple notion. Everyone, under law, has the same rights, rank, value, etc., Right? Unfortunately, our society has managed to muddle up even a simple definition, allowing a concept such as equality to be sliced up into various degrees.
Think about it for a second. We have nondiscrimination ordinances that establish employment and housing equality for people based upon race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, family status, etc. Some of our cities and counties have added gender identity and sexual orientation to that list, some have not. Our state government has not, nor has our federal government.
Through this election cycle I’ve heard candidates espouse their commitment to the LGBT community, claiming to support equality by supporting nondiscrimination in housing and employment and domestic-partner benefits, but falling short when it comes to marriage. It’s this contradiction that has troubled me the most, especially this election cycle. How can a person claim to support equality while splitting it into different degrees?
If you truly believe all people deserve equal treatment under the law, how can you support a law that defines the institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman? Doing so creates an inherent inequality under the law, restricting the rights of an entire segment of society, solely upon the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Love doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t take a genius to see there are millions of LGBT Americans in committed, loving relationships. So why, then, does the law discriminate against those people? What have they done to warrant such treatment at the hands of society?
And how is it that a person, any person in general, but a candidate for elected office in particular, can claim to support equality but refuse to support the right of any two consenting adults to express their love and commitment to one another through marriage?
A dear friend of mine asked me if the support of marriage equality should be a litmus test for candidates. I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking it over, and while I can’t tell other people how to make their voting decisions, I can say with certainty that I can’t support a candidate that doesn’t support the full equality of all citizens under the law.
Maybe that’s idealistic of me, but we all have our values. To me, a candidate for any elected office should be committed to the basic principles of freedom and democracy upon which this nation was founded. Remember these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” This nation hasn’t always lived up to those words, but it is up to us to work at building a society that does.
With that in mind, I’m encouraging everyone to take the idealistic stand with me. Equality isn’t something that can be divvied out in pieces; it’s a right that each of us shares as a part of this nation. As with all rights, there is also a responsibility we all share. That responsibility is to help ensure that ALL of us share equally in the rights and privileges of our society. If the rights of one group of citizens can be restricted, the rights of all of us are at risk.