On Tuesday, November 4th, something remarkable happened in the United States; Americans elected its first African-American president. Yet on a day when millions of Americans would celebrate such an historical event, civil rights leaders and gay rights proponents throughout America were left shocked and numb.
Looking beyond race, Californians proudly chose diversity and voted for Barak Obama, yet discriminated against their own and chose to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. Californians voted to pass Proposition 8, 52% to 48%, amending their Constitution to define that marriage could only be legal between a man and a woman.
Earlier this year, California’s Supreme Court stated that by not allowing same-sex couples equal rights to marry, California would be discriminating against a class of people. By passing Proposition 8, Californians took away these rights from same-sex couples and – just like that – put discrimination back into their Constitution.
How could Americans on one hand say they believe in equality and vote in an African American as its president, yet on the other hand say that they just don’t believe in equality for all people? Marriage is a civil union and regardless of a person’s (religious) beliefs, marriage rights should be extended to all people – black, white, gay or straight. Equal is equal. Anything less is un-American.
California wasn’t the only state to turn its back on same-sex couples. Similar measures passed in Arizona and Florida. And in what many would call a sad, sad day for children, Arkansas voters decided that children could only be fostered or adopted by a married couple. And as same-sex couples marriages are not recognized in Arkansas, same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt or foster a child. The last time I checked, gay men and women are as qualified as straight men and women to raise children – many even more qualified.
November 4th was a great day for America, but it was a terrible day for its people. Throughout the United States, people weren’t happy with these state’s election results and their voices would be heard. Not since 9/11 have Americans spoken collectively with one voice. From New England to Los Angeles, and every major city in between, Americans have rallied together to speak out against Proposition 8. They are letting America, its citizens, its lawmakers, and even the world, know that America stands for freedom and equality, and America just screwed up big time.
On Saturday, November 15th, 10 days after the election, Join the Impact organized a nationwide protest against Proposition 8. In cities throughout America, tens of thousands of supporters for equality and civil rights came out to decry the votes in California, Arkansas, Arizona and Florida. November 15th was, itself, a day to mark in history.
In Boston, an estimated 4,000 supporters came out on a very rainy and windy day to show their support for civil rights and equality. Massachusetts has allowed marriage equality for all couples for the past four years and Boston’s voice is strong. The two-hour event included civil rights politicians who invoked Martin Luther King and his dream for equality, Massachusetts’ first married gay couple, gay and straight activists, a GLAD attorney who fought on behalf of Connecticut’s same-sex couples seeking marriage equality, a poet, a transgender, and many other men and women who spoke about equality for all.
In Medford, Oregon, a couple hundred protestors rallied in opposition of Proposition 8. And in Salt Lake City, Utah, an estimated 2,000 people came together and protested Prop 8. Throughout America, people gathered to speak out against discrimination and to let America know that Separate is Not Equal.
I attended the protest in Boston’s City Hall Plaza. It was peaceful, encouraging and uplifting. However, as I stood there in a sea of 4,000 mostly gay and lesbian protestors, I felt very alone. As a straight, Caucasian woman, I’ll never know the gender or race bias that so many live with daily. But for those two hours, I felt a little of what it must feel like to be alone in world where you are not in the majority and every day is a fight for equality.
The most touching moment of my afternoon I owe to Carrie Cook of Medfield, Massachusetts. I was standing next to Carrie and her family and saw how proud her married uncle was to have the support of his family there at the protest. Carrie, 13, stood there in support of her uncles and held a sign that read, “Equal Rights For My Uncles”.
I didn’t know Carrie, but I could see how proud she was to be there. Supporting her uncles, and never putting her sign down, she, for me, is truly an American. Carrie understands the meaning of freedom, equality and what it means to have, and use, her voice.
Carrie’s mother told me that Carrie is an honor student, a violinist and softball and field hockey player and that Carrie is passionate about finding a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), helping the environment and fighting for equality for her uncles. Carrie is making a difference and her voice is one that America desperately needs. While other 13-year olds spent their Saturday sleeping, going shopping or just hanging out with friends, Carrie chose to spend her day supporting a grass-roots equal rights movement. And now Carrie can say she was there when it all began.
I believe it’s necessary to support changing the laws to recognize the freedom of same-sex couples to express their lives through love and marriage.
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