Law treats gays as second-class citizens

LOS ANGELES (U-WIRE) — Last month, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state must guarantee gay couples the same rights and benefits it does for straight couples. Even though the court stopped short of outright legalizing same-sex marriages, many viewed this as a victory for the gay rights movement.
Unfortunately, many states are still reluctant to make the same bold step as Vermont. In fact, just recently, the state court in Hawaii denied same-sex couples the right to get married. The perceived “threat” of the movement toward gay marriages has led 30 states to pass laws that would prevent them from recognizing such marriages. This March, Californians will be asked to vote on Proposition 22, an initiative that calls for the same thing.
What all of this symbolizes is the reluctance of society to openly accept homosexuals, and our stigma toward those who are different. It represents fear and discrimination. It represents the hypocrisy of many people in this country who recited the same lines over and over as children in school: “with liberty and justice for all.” Still, I’ve heard several arguments on why marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
First, there’s the argument that allowing gay marriages would force the public to pay to provide them with the same marriage benefits straight couples enjoy. Well, so what? Isn’t that part of the principle of justice that this country was founded on? Imagine loving someone so much that you couldn’t live without him or her. Then imagine that person dying because he or she may not have received medical care that your insurance could have covered.
Or picture yourself being denied housing benefits, certain tax breaks and hospital visitation rights simply because of sexual orientation. Is this justice and equality?
Secondly, many are concerned that marriage between two people of the same sex will harm traditional family arrangements. They harp on the supposedly adverse effects it would have on children. They believe children raised by gays and lesbians would be sexually abused, ostracized by friends or confined to single-sex communities. But in a study of children raised by same-sex couples, the American Psychological Association concluded that the fears previously mentioned are unfounded and that “children of gay parents turn out no better or worse than children of heterosexuals” (Time, Dec. 29, 1997).
There’s a stereotype that homosexuals possess these insatiable urges to engage in sexual activity all day and all night, and thus would simply get married for this purpose.
I know straight guys who are afraid to talk to a gay man because they fear he’ll immediately jump on top of him.
Where does this stigma of “horny” gay people come from? Frankly, most of the attitudes people harbor toward gays come not from their own personal experiences and interactions, but from cultural institutions like television. Such cultural institutions promulgate certain ideas that we internalize and allow to shape our consciousness.
Finally, many religious conservatives argue that same-sex marriages are “immoral” and harm the sanctity of marriage, one of our most cherished institutions. Well, first off, we live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Religion should play absolutely no role in defining the way we, as a society, guarantee individual legal rights.
In addition, these people forget to mention that their healthy and valued tradition suffers a 50 percent divorce rate among heterosexuals and more than half of the children in this country live in single parent or non-traditional households (USA Today, Jan. 3, 2000). Just as two straight people wish to marry out of love and the desire to build a future together, gay people should enjoy that same right.
Why can’t we open ourselves up to the idea that two people of the same sex can share the same bond as a successful heterosexual couple?
Conservatives love to talk about how they aim for “less government” and are always quick to denounce “big government” for intruding into the lives of this nation’s people. But when it comes to deciding who you want to marry, they are quick to launch an offensive, striving to dictate people’s personal choices and legislate morality. Basically they say, “If you’re straight, you can get married. But if you’re gay, sorry, you can’t.” Sounds like government intervening into the personal affairs of others.
Many states even contain anti-sodomy laws. Rather than respecting the right to privacy of an intimate couple, conservatives favor “Big Brother” peeping into people’s bedrooms. This is frightening if you think about it. Anyone in a state with anti-sodomy laws can be arrested for being gay.
In the first half of this century, many states had laws banning interracial marriage. Many people fear change. It took time for interracial marriage to gradually gain acceptance. But we cannot afford to procrastinate. In order to uphold the principles that this country stands for, we must take bold steps to transform the consciousness of society.
The United States prides itself on individual liberty and the concept of equal rights and freedom. The hypocrisy is, often those principles only hold true if you are not different. We enjoy picking and choosing who deserves rights. This issue of gay marriage involves something more profound: the basic respect and dignity that every human being deserves. As the future of America, we must strive to amend this inconsistency.
People will never call themselves bigots nor will they say they promote or practice discrimination. This system guarantees certain rights to straight couples while blatantly denying them to gay couples.
Fascism involves a form of government that encourages conformity and punishes those who are different. If you stray from the herd, you get shot. Is that what America is? A country that chooses to discriminate against others simply because they don’t follow the industry standard of being attracted to people of the opposite sex? Does that make them inhuman or undeserving of the same benefits everyone else enjoys? If we believe in “liberty and justice for all,” we must act.
You’ve heard the other side talk about various “concerns.” “Concern” for the sanctity of marriage. “Concern” for its effects on taxpayers. “Concern” for morality.
Oh, please. I’m sick of the euphemisms. Let’s peer behind the mask of deceit and label this “concern” more appropriately: fear, ignorance, prejudice and discrimination.
Jonah Lalas’ column originally appeared in Wednesday’s University of California-Los Angeles paper, the Daily Bruin.