Equal rights requires call to action

IUS Horizon

A suited 19-year-old man stands before the Iowa House in 2011 speaking eloquently on behalf of same-sex marriage. He spoke about being raised by two mothers, and how that has had zero impact on the content of his character.

I first saw Zach Wahls’ impressive testimony multiple times on different social media websites. Wahls’ testimony is the most popular political video on YouTube, with 18 million views.

Nearly two years later, I had the privilege to meet Wahls in person when he came to IU Southeast on Oct. 10. Wahls told us his story and how the 21-year-old Iowan ended up in the Hoosier state advocating equal rights.

What left a lasting impression on me was what Wahls said at the end of his presentation.

Using the famous words of a Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“It doesn’t just bend toward justice,” Wahls said. “We stand up, we grab it and, dammit, we pull it to justice.

This argument we are having in 2012 about whether one group of people “deserves” the right that is granted to every other person in the country, baffles me. As a nation, I feel like we have come a long way in the reform of civil rights, but there is still inequality, and there is still change that needs to happen.

Currently, there are only six states within our nation that allow same-sex marriage, and four more will be voting on it Nov. 6. Five more states allow civil unions for same-sex couples, but civil unions are nowhere near an equal option to marriage. By allowing civil unions as an alternative, states are saying that separate but equal is still OK.

As a nation, I thought we agreed separate but equal was unconstitutional 50 years ago. Yet, here we are providing alternative means of marriage, denying certain rights based on sexual orientation. When I really think about it, it seems something very similar to what I read in an elementary-level history textbook about segregation.

The question I have is, why not marriage? What is it about that word in general that has people so eager to protect its sanctity?

I assume the common response would be because of the word’s religious roots. I hate to tell you all, but the sanctity of marriage has long since been tarnished by divorce and affairs.

If couples of the same sex cannot wed because marriage is a religious ceremony, then why are atheists allowed to marry? Why are couples of different faiths allowed to marry?

I’m not asking these questions for a response, but just to think about the double standard of this traditional view.

A marriage is not defined by the beliefs of the two people involved – it is defined by the love they have for one another — and no person or government official should be able to decide that one love is less important than another based on the sex of your partner.

I have heard so many disheartening stories about couples who have been denied basic human rights, such as health benefits and hospital visitation, based solely on their sexual orientation.

These basic rights – that straight couples hardly even think about – become crucial when a loved one is in a life or death situation or are in need of immediate care.

Husbands and wives are forced to sit in waiting rooms while their spouse is in critical condition, because the government said their love is not equal to straight love. That is sick.

There are so many people in this country that are scared that somehow their family and their marriage, will be affected by legalizing same-sex marriages. What lasting  negative affect could allowing civil rights to everyone have on a straight family?

Think about what it will do for their family, and what it does for their life.

As a straight person, I don’t know what it is like to be denied my rights, which is why I will fight for everyone to feel the same way that I do.

I know there are many people who feel the same, but nothing can be accomplished without action. Just as Wahls said, change does not just happen — you have to make it happen.

Our generation has a voice, yet, I feel like there are very few people who are willing to be active to force change. The reason we are still having a debate about equality is because the people  in our generation  are politically inactive.

Our generation needs to be involved in the political process, and our voice needs to be heard.

It is not enough to just hope things get better. With technology and social media, we have the ability to do things our parents never dreamed of doing.

Wahls’ story may have never been told 10 years ago, without the help of YouTube.

I hope in the future I will be able to tell my children how I fought for equality of same-sex couples in this country, and I hope they will never have to fight for the rights for themselves or their friends like we are doing now.

In 20 years when we look back on this time, which side of the fight will you be able to say you stood on?

By HANNA WOODS

Sports Editor

hrwoods@umail.iu.edu