Tears Left Over
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This line from the Declaration of Independence is perhaps the best known sentence in the English language. It perfectly captures the essence of equality and what that meant to the men who established this nation. These were people who were desperately trying to escape an oppressive and unfair existence under King George III and the British Empire. And in no manner does it separate people into classes or castes. It applies to ALL Americans, no matter who you are or what you believe or how you worship – or don’t – or who you love.
This has been a very important day in the evolution of the United States. Equality has once again been brought front and center and once again it has been upheld. In declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and by declining to rule on the Proposition 8 challenge, the Supreme Court effectively said that same sex spouses are entitled to the same rights as opposite sex couples and that marriage is not just the union of one man and one woman. Same sex marriages may now resume in California and there will be little to keep this equality from spreading throughout the rest of the country. It’s already legal in twelve other states and the District of Columbia.
For a long time I’ve felt that once the Supreme Court was asked to rule on a same sex marriage lawsuit the matter would be dealt with and in a fair and just manner. And I was right. The Supreme Court has a pretty good track record when it comes to fairly applying the law. People who oppose gay marriage on religious or moral claims are wearing blinders when it comes to equality and the rights of the individual. They feel that it’s okay to vote away civil rights and to say that because their religion or their philosophy opposes gay marriage then everyone else must be held to their standards. And that isn’t equality. It’s oppression, plain and simple. This country was not built on that ideology.
Like millions of other people, I was very happy with today’s rulings by the Supreme Court. It paves the way for everyone to enjoy the same rights when it comes to love and marriage and the responsibility of the government to recognize these rights. Yet I still feel a great deal of sadness for all those who’ve been deprived of their rights who cannot now enjoy them because they passed away before the law enforced them.
I think of Thea Spyer, who felt that she was providing for her partner, Edie Windsor. It was Edie who brought the lawsuit challenging DOMA. Edie and Thea were married in Canada and when Thea died of ALS, Edie was informed that her tax burden due to Thea’s bequest would be north of $300,000. The IRS told her that her marriage was not recognized in the United States. It is because of Edie’s courage and determination that no other same sex spouse will have to go through what she did. But my heart breaks for all those who up to this point have been subjected to such unfair practices by their government and I am equally saddened by how Thea would have felt had she known that her wishes to take care of Edie would come at such a cost.
I think of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who lived together as a married couple for over thirty years, and who were eventually allowed to legally marry but just a short time before Del passed away. That two consenting adults who love each other and want to be married had to go through so many years of being treated like second class citizens before their desire to tell the whole world that they were in love and wanted to be married could be fulfilled. And all the millions of other people who have been denied the right to marriage because an unjust society refused to recognize their right to love whomever they choose, my heart goes out to them as well.
For you see that’s what marriage is. It is the culmination of a union between two people who love each other and who are willing to make a public statement to that effect. All they want is what opposite sex couples can freely have. It is not for society to determine who someone should love or who someone should spend his/her life with either. Love is universal. In denying a person the right to wed because said person might be in love with someone of the same sex, society is in effect telling them that they aren’t as good as their heterosexual counterparts. And that goes against the Declaration of Independence where it stipulates that “all men are created equal.”
So while today is a landmark moment in the fight for equal rights in the United States, there are still so many tears left over for those who were not given the same consideration that the Supreme Court said today was due them. Those people will never know the freedom that today’s rulings extend to their descendants. Just as slavery once shackled millions of African Americans who did not live to see their emancipation, there are multitudes of LGBT citizens who will not know the joy that today has brought. At least we didn’t have to go to war to bring about the changes that are now unfolding.
Or did we?