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Gay & Lesbian Marriage

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Gay & Lesbian Marriage.

By

Shakira Henley-Fernandez

INTRODUCTION

I am a woman of African and Cherokee Indian descent. I was born from a man and a woman as most are. I was taught that all people are created equal. We may differ in skin tone, language, and places of origin but we are all human beings that are to be treated equally and fairly in all stations of life. At a young age this knowledge was bestowed upon me by those who loved and raised me. With this basic knowledge I began grade school and again my teachers delivered this same message by way of the Declaration of Independence. Specifically the phrase that reads:

"We hold these truths to be selfÐ'-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."

Being the inquisitive child that I was, I had to ask my teachers why this phrase only included men. My teacher explained that it meant mankind, which includes men and women. I was pleased with that answer and moved forward believing those words to be true. It was unfortunate that as I became an adult I had the lessons of my younger years challenged so drastically. Once I reached adulthood I accepted and embraced that I was born a lesbian. This creates a problem right? Of course not! I was born this way and to maintain health and sanity we must be who we are. In an attempt to live properly and benefit society, I set out to be the best lesbian I could be. I'm employed, educated, and a homeowner. I pay taxes, donate my time and money, and I have never broken the law. So when I found the person I wanted to love and live the rest of my life with, and decided to honor that love with a wedding, I was told I couldn't. But wait, is this not my decision to make? Don't I have the right to marry whom I choose? Making a decision to unite with another person is my personal right. This once again brings me back to the phrase of the Declaration of Independence regarding the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Is the message I'm to understand is that because I am gay I am not afforded these rights? Although I live my life as any heterosexual man or woman would, I do not have the same right to marry the woman of my choosing because I am a woman.

There should be no differences made between any groups of human beings in their decision to marry another. The existence of this prejudice is a major social problem. I will discuss the history, pros and cons, and personal insight of gay and lesbian marriage and try to offer a solution of acceptance for the future.

HISTORY

Gay and lesbian people have existed for many centuries. Surprisingly, throughout history we have not been met with the persecution we tend to deal with in the modern day world. In the past, society readily accepted homosexuality as a normal everyday occurrence. Classical Greece and Rome, ancient China and pre-colonial America considered homosexuality common. In Greece, for example, sex between men was considered a normal and natural part of socialization. Furthermore, in certain African tribes, gay men are honored and given the right to perform tasks reserved for priestesses.

What happened to this acceptance and honor? What was once considered normal is now taboo. Why are we now persecuted for wanting our love to be honored as all human beings do? Fear, hatred, and a lack of knowledge are what changed. Once these emotions became predominant, the fight began. The fight for the freedom to marry has been one of longevity, struggle, turmoil, frustration, success and perseverance. Think back to the first same-sex marriage case to appear before the courts. Jack Baker and Michael McConnell from Minnesota filed their case in May of 1970. I was but a few months old at the time and I stand amazed that these men who knew nothing of me did so much to assist in my wife and I being married today. The courts refused to consider Baker and McConnell's equal protection claim based on the idea that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Similarly, there were other gay couples who hit legal roadblocks. For example, in 1973, a lesbian couple from Kentucky (Jones & Hallahan) and in 1974 a gay couple from Washington State (Singer & Hara) met the same fate as Baker and McConnell. The courts from these early gay rights same sex marriage cases were quick to agree that these couples' rights were not being violated because marriage by definition did not include them.

The right to marry in that time as it is today is no small thing. It is larger than life and is truly monumental. The struggle is necessary because of the importance of marriage. Marriage is a personal right, a legal right, and it is vital to achieving that pursuit of happiness I spoke of earlier. Same sex couples seek the right to marry for the respect, love, happiness, sense of worth, and community that come with marriage.

ADVOCATES

There are many people, societies, organizations and government officials that fully support the desire and right of gays to marry. Along with the gay and lesbian community, they believe that refusing the right of marriage to gays and lesbians is a direct and blatant violation of our civil rights. Our advocates understand that in denying us this right we are also denied the many financial, legal, and parenting rights coveted by our heterosexual counterparts. One government official, Iowa Rep. Ed Fallon, said the following as part of his speech in the House of Representatives on February 20, 1996 in favor of extending the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples:

"The message we're sending today is that it's ok to discriminate against people of a different sexual orientation, even though for the most part, that's the way they were born and there's nothing they can do to change it. And for those who would argue that homosexuality is a choice, I ask you: do you really believe that anyone in their right mind would voluntarily choose to be in a class of people who are constantly made fun of, despised, beaten up and even killed, discriminated against, fired from their jobs, denied housing, and prevented from marrying? For gay and lesbian people, this array of abuse is par for the course. If you believe that homosexuality is a personal choice, then you have not tried very hard to see this issue from a gay or lesbian person's point of view.

Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any for me to come out of the

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