As the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates on the constitutionality of Proposition Eight and the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), citizens nationwide remain divided on the legality of same-sex marriage. Frankly, bigotry is the only reason for people to support such unconstitutional laws.
The 14th Amendment grants all citizens equal protection under the law and defends them from laws that abridge their rights and privileges. Marriage is a legal institution because state-recognized marriage is a legal contract and it falls under legal jurisdiction. Anyone who still denies Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer and Asexual (LGBTQA) individuals equal protection under the law is asserting that because of their sexual orientation, they are not people. Dehumanization is inexcusably monstrous.
Those supporting so-called “family values” defend DoMA by saying that legalizing same-sex marriage would endanger children, stating that children need to be raised by married heterosexual couples. This assumes that LGBTQA people are dangerous to children, which is simply offensive and inaccurate.
The idea that every family needs one mother and one father discounts the innumerable amount of single parents, divorced couples, unwed heterosexual couples and wed same-sex couples successfully raising children.
Furthermore, endless numbers of children born into heterosexual households suffer abuse, neglect and other ills. People have hurt children since the beginning of time. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.
The claim that same-sex marriage would degrade the institution of marriage fails the same test of human ethics. Same-sex marriage won’t nullify heterosexual marriage any more than heterosexual marriage has already.
America is home to drive-thru chapels, nuptials measured in hours and a divorce rate of 50 percent. But these facts apply to heterosexual couples, so people do not cite the actions as abuses of the institution. Bigotry is the only reason for this distinction.
The fact that people are even debating this issue highlights the patriarchal, heterocentric nature of American culture. We have not progressed greatly since the 1950s because people outside the ethnocentric and heterocentric norm still need to be granted rights by the powerful majority.
While an important step toward equality for same-sex couples, repealing DoMA would do little to combat the larger discrimination affecting the LGBTQA community because it ignores the prejudice that is the foundation for marriage inequality.
While VCU is relatively progressive, we cannot ignore the fact that people who don’t conform to gender or heterosexual norms face bigotry. “Gay” remains a synonym for “stupid,” “dyke” and “faggot” are used in everyday conversation and I often hear people refer to trans* people as “he-shes.”
This hate speech illustrates nonconformity as a fault and using it casually is hurtful, even if that is not the intention. Trans* individuals are still harassed in public and in gendered bathrooms if other occupants deem them incorrect. LGBTQA individuals face discrimination when applying to jobs and public schools.
Until our country becomes more tolerant in speech, laws and actions, we will not have true gender and sexual equality. Even measuring equality based on an institution like marriage founded in subjugating women illustrates how oblivious America is to the needs of those without privilege.
I await the Supreme Court’s ruling, hoping they take our country forward rather than backward. Regardless, I want us all to remember that this is one step toward gender and sexual equality, but it is not the finish line.