One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Published: November 20, 2008

This election marks a milestone in history. We have taken a huge step in moving beyond the racial injustices that have plagued this nation since its inception. But there is one minority who has been left behind.

The American gay and lesbian community took a serious hit this election cycle when legislation aimed at restricting the rights of same-sex couples passed in several states. Proposition 8, which will amend California’s state constitution to revoke the right of gays to marry, easily passed despite a great deal of attention and opposition. Similar measures passed in Arizona and Florida, and legislation that will prevent unmarried couples from adopting passed in Alabama.

How can we as a nation reconcile one moment of progress in tolerance with several slips backward?

It is becoming clear that we cannot. Since the election on Nov. 4, protests against this legislation have sprung up across the country. While vocal opponents of same-sex marriage claim that they do not intend to discriminate against anyone, the implications of their views and policies are in opposition to the elimination of intolerance.

To deny gays and lesbians the right to marry is to deny an entire community a right most of us take for granted. So many children grow up with the assumption that they will one day find a partner for life, whom they will eventually marry and have children with. For many, marriage is a right of passage, an event that marks the moment we settle into adulthood and are mature enough to take on the responsibility of families of our own. But as a result of these measures, for many, this moment may never come.

It is unfortunate that this historic election, which broke down some of the toughest political barriers across the country, was marred by the passage of laws that chip away at individual rights.

Regardless of individual opinions on same-sex marriage, we must recognize that each and every individual deserves the same opportunities, regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. Just as we have taken great strides to move beyond racism, we must continue to work to reach a similar point in discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is time to recognize that we are all equal and that we all deserve the same chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.