Yesterday the internet exploded with the news that the ban on gay marriage was lifted in Michigan (my home state). That means that marriage was legal for same-sex couples.
This morning I woke up to the news that an asshole Attorney General filed a request for the order to be appealed. This means that everyone who got gay-married in Michigan yesterday is now in legal limbo.
Predictably, this gave me a lot of feelings.
Being in Berlin right now, I’m physically very far away from these problems. Germany doesn’t have full marriage rights, but has recognition of partnerships. Especially in Berlin, being queer is just easy. In fact, if you’re living in Berlin, and you’re queer, chances are you found out that Berlin is one of the gayest cities in Europe. The economy is one of the best in the world, and everyone has health insurance. Education is cheap, food is cheap, and public transportation is efficient. I’m happy and healthy (apart from a cold I’m nursing right now), and I do as I please.
Despite all of that though, I wish I could be in Michigan at this very moment to fight what’s happening. I want to talk to people, change their minds, change their preconceptions, allow them to see that marriage equality will not hurt them. I almost feel that I have betrayed my queer community by taking an easy way out. When I was in Ann Arbor, I had a radio show about sex, sexuality, and gender, and every week I spent long hours in Prod A of WCBN editing my 30-minute chunk of radio, all the while thinking, “I hope someone listens to this who has never even heard the term ‘queer’ before.”
Does that mean I’m going to move back to Michigan right now? Definitely not. But I do feel like I’m missing out on an important part of my own history. I thought, “Maybe in 10 years the ban will be lifted,” but now it’s here. My friends and family have the chance to be treated like equal citizens in at least some capacity.
Something worth noting, is that I don’t have any desire to get married. At this time in my life, I don’t see myself getting married or having kids. For me, marriage equality is 100% about the rights that people have, and the choice to exercise those rights. Simply the absence of those rights makes me and any queer friends a second class citizen. OK, you hear that phrase a lot, right? Here’s what it actually means.
“A second-class citizen is a person who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws or criminals, second-class citizens have limited legal rights, civil rights and socioeconomic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment or neglect at the hands of their putative superiors. Instead of being protected by the law, the law disregards a second-class citizen, or it may actually be used to harass them. Systems with de facto second-class citizenry are generally regarded as violating human rights. Typical impediments facing second-class citizens include, but are not limited to, disenfranchisement (a lack or loss of voting rights), limitations on civil or military service (not including conscription in every case), as well as restrictions on language, religion, education, freedom of movement and association, weapons ownership, marriage, gender identity and expression, housing and property ownership.”
All those bolded lines? Things that the queer community has had to, or are still putting up with today.
What does that mean? It means that the United States (not all of them, but you know, a lot of them) are guilty of violating human rights. I’m talking about marriage, but I’m also talking about basic protection against discrimination, which happens on a daily basis in the housing market, in medical facilities, employment, blood donation, adoption, and hate crimes. Without the laws in place to protect queer citizens, there will always, ALWAYS be people who will discriminate, and take advantage of their power.
This brings me back to the beginning. All of these are connected, no matter how much we try to blind ourselves from seeing the truth. Marriage equality in and of itself is a goal, but it also signifies the greater equivalence of humanity.