Saturday, June 27, 2015

#LoveWins across the nation, but opposition remains

The struggle for marriage equality has been a long one -- and it's not over yet

I've been in favor of marriage equality for a long time. 

Ten years ago I wrote for my college newspaper, the UW-Milwaukee Post. I was an opinion writer, focusing on national and local political topics that I felt needed to be discussed.

Among those issues, I frequently wrote about the need to allow same-sex couples the right to marriage benefits.

In November 2005 I wrote:
Denying homosexuals the right to marry is denying their pursuit of happiness...While religious conservatives have arguably pursued their happiness -- by not allowing gay couples to be recognized by a secular state as married -- their pursuit has destroyed the possibility for [same-sex couples] to pursue their own happiness.
The following year the state of Wisconsin passed a ban on same-sex marriages. In the run-up to that, I wrote columns urging people to vote against the ban.

In March of 2006 I wrote:
To allow this amendment to pass would amount to nothing more than blatant discrimination
And in September of 2006, just months before the ban was passed, I wrote:
We are about to write discrimination into our state constitution. Because some of us hold our religious views so strongly, we will soon [ban] two people from ever expressing their love for one another in a fashion that would grant them the same benefits that straight couples receive.
Wisconsinites would eventually shift their opinion on the ban, but not before it was passed as law, unchangeable unless through another amendment -- or unless national action was taken.

Last year, the state of Wisconsin was forced to allow same-sex couples the same marriage rights that straight couples receive when a federal court ruled the state ban was unconstitutional. Most in the state were happy with the decision, while some vowed to fight on against it.

This past week, however, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that court decision, as well as a slew of others, specifying that marriage equality was now the official law of the land.

It’s been a long time coming -- but now, gay and lesbian couples are finally allowed to get married in the United States, no matter where they are.

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision -- laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were discriminatory and wrong. And even where civil unions or domestic registries were allowable, it created a “separate but unequal” class of people who were denied privileges on one basis and one basis only:

That who they loved didn’t fit with what some people had in mind.

We are all free to pursue our own measure of happiness, so long as that pursuit doesn’t stifle someone else’s livelihood. Gay or lesbian couples, no matter how much conservatives may say otherwise, do not stifle the happiness of others when they receive a license formally granting them marriage benefits.

The opposite was definitely true: when bans on marriage equality were put in place, they put burdens on the lives of same-sex families, limiting their ability to visit each other in the hospital, dismissing their inheritance rights, or disallowing partners to have equal parenting rights, among many other protections.

Those days are now over: marriage equality is here, and now any American, regardless of their sexual orientation, can marry the person whom they choose to love.

There will be continued attacks, of course, on this newly gained right. Some will simply refuse to marry same-sex couples, even if it means that heterosexual marriages have to stop also. Others, like Gov. Scott Walker, will aim to promote a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing states the right to restrict the right of marriage to include only “one man and one woman.”

And still others will remain bigoted in their livelihood. Society has not fully accepted same-sex love quite yet, and the struggle remains real for gay and lesbian couples even after this Supreme Court ruling.

We mustn’t forget that this win for progress could very well be destroyed in the years to come. The Supreme Court ruled in a narrow 5-4 decision in favor of equality; if a Republican president is elected in 2016, it could mean that a new Supreme Court, composed of a larger segment of conservative justices, could undo this victory with a series of other judgments favoring small-mindedness.

That cannot be allowed to happen. We must dedicate ourselves to preserving the freedom to marry for years to come, fighting against attempts to dismantle marriage equality when those who fear this new right try their hardest to remove it from law.

Celebrate this momentous occasion. It is indeed a great day, worth remembering for years to come.

But be prepared also to dig your heels in deep -- the fight to undo this ruling, and to remove the rights now just won for same-sex couples, will remain for years into the future.

To opponents of marriage equality, I say this: “Just try it.” America has changed, and for the better. Opposing marriage equality will only do you more harm than good.

And to Gov. Scott Walker specifically -- good luck winning the presidency on a platform of small-mindedness. We won’t forget your position on equality, and it won’t help you after your party’s nomination process.

#LoveWins in America.

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