Gays deserve equal rights, too
Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 30, 2011 00:05
A new poll released by Gallup shows that for the first time, a majority of Americans are in favor of gay marriage.
Fifty-three percent of Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be recognized as valid under law. Supporting same-sex marriages is an important step in ensuring that we are being fair and equal to all Americans. Without taking this step, gay couples are essentially shut out from being eligible for benefits that heterosexual couples have, and we need to ensure fairness in our laws.
For many decades, gay Americans have been treated as second-class citizens on many fronts. We have progressed and undone many injustices toward the gay community, such as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a federal law which did not allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Although this legislation has been repealed, the policy is not expected to be lifted until later this year, according to CNN.
In June 2009, the U.S. State Department decided to extend the full range of legal benefits and allowances to same-sex, domestic partners of Foreign Service members sent to serve abroad.
We've come a long way in this country when it comes to gay rights. There are still several protections that are denied to same-sex couples because they cannot have their union recognized as a legal marriage under federal law.
Same-sex couples cannot file joint tax returns and enjoy income and estate tax benefits. They do not have the automatic ability to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse, and they cannot petition for their same-sex partner to immigrate from another country. They also do not have the ability to obtain continued health coverage for a same-sex partner after the loss of a job.
The most immediate way to provide relief to these couples is to allow them to marry legally under the law. By the looks of this poll, however, this change will have to come from the youth demographic. The poll reports 70 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 support gay marriage. Subsequently, the support drops to 35 percent among those ages 55 and older.
This is no longer simply a liberal idea. Next week, former Iowa state Sen. Jeff Angelo, a conservative Republican, will be unveiling a new advocacy group of conservatives that support same-sex marriage, according to the Des Moines Register. According to the Register, Angelo said that the debate centers around the devaluation of the lives of a select group of people when he spoke at the Iowa legislature in favor of same-sex marriage.
"At its worst, we are being asked to believe that our gay friends and neighbors are involved in a nefarious agenda. The outcome of which, supposedly, is the unraveling of society itself," Angelo said.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is another prominent public official that has been advocating in support of gay marriage. He recently pressed lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in his state, saying that the government has no business deciding who a person will love.
Gay couples should have the same range of legal benefits and protections as straight couples. To do otherwise is to leave them as lesser citizens in a country that prides itself in being a bastion of individual liberty and equality. We need to live up to these principles and ensure that we have equal rights for everyone in America.