Why should the Supreme Court leave the decision of same-sex marriage to the states? Our Declaration of Independence, a document that speaks for our entire country, has already stated that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” So what leeway do states have unless they reinterpret the Declaration of Independence, supersede the “Creator” and redefine the word “all”?
Unfortunately, throughout history, members of the “majority” haven’t been concerned about preserving the rights of minorities with regard to happiness, especially if the desires of the minority conflicted with their own, e.g., slaves and Southern plantation owners. Inequality was wrong then, and inequality is wrong now. Nevertheless, members of the majority still experience relatively few implacable roadblocks along the path to happiness, while the path for members of minorities — especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — is an obstacle course. And for many young gay people, it’s a crash course.
If you are one of those people who is still having a hard time opening your heart and mind to the idea of same-sex marriage, perhaps a little empathy would help. Put yourself in their shoes.
You are gay. Yes, you were born this way. The research can prove it. You come to realize that something is different, but you don’t always know what it is or why it is before a classmate, friend, family member, acquaintance or stranger teases or bullies you and makes you feel inadequate. And this feeling doesn’t go away. You have choices, but for most people, none of them are satisfying. You can pretend that other people are wrong and go out of your way to prove you are not what you are, perhaps by involving yourself in a heterosexual relationship that gives you no joy and hurts another human being. Or you live a double life — one existence that gives you some fulfillment and the other that makes you feel guilty. And when the truth comes out, all involved are likely to suffer. Alternatively, you could live a very lonely and loveless life — a single person who never seems to find the “right” match. Finally, you could tell the truth — you “come out” to your family and community and open yourself to the possibilities of insults, humiliation, physical abuse and unemployment. Given these choices, your only choices, which would you choose?
Choose? Nobody’s potential for happiness should be limited to options like these in the United States.
There should be another prospect available: a life of personal, private and public acceptance that is nationally encouraged and judicially declared. Opportunities for all people to pursue a loving relationship that harvests happiness should be the law of our land, and the Supreme Court should relish its power to make it possible.
Alexis Finger is a professor in the ESL certificate program at Drexel University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.