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equality is an American value

May 10, 2012

Yesterday, President Obama publicly and thoughtfully spoke about his evolving viewpoint on the issue of marriage equality.  Like many Americans who have long thought equality was an American value, I herald President Obama for considering the issue, weighing his personal beliefs, his interactions with people he knows and conversation with his family and coming to the right conclusion, that equality is the only way to go.

I realize that the timing of his revelation could be considered risky, as we ramp up into the election process, knowing that the “other side” in that race may use this support for same-gender marriage against him.  It might also be calculated to endear the sizable LGBT community to rise up to support him.

Of course there are those in the LGBT community who are saying it’s too little, too late.  I think it’s easy for us to forget how far we’ve come in the last 3.5 years.  There have been victories, however small.  The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no small win.  

There are those who say he’s flip flopped on the issue.  I don’t think that’s true.  Obama has always spoken in terms of equal treatment, but his personal beliefs regarding the term “marriage” kept him from fully endorsing same-gender marriage in the past.  This is true of many people that I know.  As long as the gay men seeking to unify their family were “other”…were people you don’t know, don’t interact with, don’t see everyday, people can cling to the idea that they are, exactly that…other.

But, when you find yourself getting to know someone, who has a family, who loves his partner, who loves his children, and you realize that he doesn’t get all the benefits you do because the state says he can’t marry the person he loves, when you see first hand how it affects them, it begins to change you.

And yet, in this country, we are still voting on whether or not equality should be allowed.  We are voting to create a second class of citizens.  We are voting to label people as “less than” or “not good enough”.  In a way we are legislating the very bullying we see leading to the deaths of our young people in droves.

It’s a mixed message we’re sending as a nation.  And maybe it isn’t as big an issue as the economy, jobs, healthcare…or maybe it is bigger.  Can we afford to alienate and denigrate those who make us uncomfortable? Can we afford to marginalize someone based on their skin color or political affiliation or religious doctrine or sexual orientation?  

What I see when I look at us politically is a vicious playground filled with bullies and the kids they abuse, aided by the blind eyes of their parents, so busy with their technology telling them what to believe that they never see the whole picture.  I’d venture to say that ALL of the problems we face right now stem from that base issue.

So maybe, just maybe, this issue is first.  Most important.  Equality for all, the way our founding fathers envisioned it.  The way our constitution is written to ensure.  Maybe when we stop sniping over who believes in which god or no god, when we stop denying basic human rights based on judgments of who we think people are, when we realize that Equality is an American value, a good one, maybe then we can begin to fix what is really wrong with this country.

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