As I listened to CNN report on the possibility of New York being the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, a question popped into my head: If one is fully an American citizen, why is it possible for him or her to have different rights than other American citizens? Should my status as an American supersede every other subgroup title I carry, including gay, Latino, Native American, European, dark-skinned, heavy-set, short, parent, grandfather, adoptee, or anything else? I suggest it should.
When I attended school as a child, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance. We said:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, [under God (added in 1954),] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ~ Francis Bellamy (1892)
I cannot imagine that when Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 that he, as a Baptist minister and christian socialist, would have imagined that this statement would mean Blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals; however, it does. Bellamy did write, after all, that “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to a world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another (Beato, 2010).” Much to what I’m certain would be Bellamy’s chagrin, we are merging into one distinct American society. So, why then are there different levels of citizenship in our republic?
Nothing is simpler than layering a group by status. The “haves” have more than the “have-nots.” Land owners had more power than the slaves. The European-based pioneers in the West decimated the indigenous people across the American territories. Experiences like these repeat themselves time and again because the status of one group is perceived as higher or lower than another. We face an issue of status today as gay couples are disallowed full marriage rights in the United States of America.
One issue I have with those who support equal marriage rights is that they perpetuate the current lexicon by claiming we are fighting for same-sex marriage rights. The discussion should be about making American citizenship the same for everyone by allowing every individual the right to marry whomever he or she chooses to marry. I understand the questions about relatives marrying, even though the current science does not support many of those arguments. I understand the age requirements for marriage. Children cannot make a healthy choice about marriage, and they should not be asked to be in that position. The paternalism of government has continued to encourage the placement of the gay and lesbian community within the same spectrum as children: the LGBT community apparently cannot make a healthy choice to marry any more than children can.
If one is an adult American citizen, one should be able to marry the person of his or her choice. That’s the whole concept in a nutshell. This is true marriage equality. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with region or history. An American anywhere in the United States may marry the person of his or her choice. Which individual or group has the right to deny anyone that right or any other right? Our only job as a country is to ensure that all rights are assured in every state of the union. That is freedom. When we assure everyone have the same rights, then we can sleep soundly knowing that we have the “liberty and justice for all” promised in our Pledge of Allegiance and our Constitution.
Beato, Greg, (2010, Dec. 16). Face the Flag, Reason
Bumper sticker (2011) “Love is gender blind.” Retrieved from http://middleagedqueers.com/?p=5575