High School Junior – final project on gay rights

Darian a bold and tenacious teenager contacted me about her junior english project months before the due date.  She inquired about interviewing me so she could write a well informed position paper.  I am very proud of her work and she received and “A” on this project.  Just know she is from North Dakota and identifies herself as an ally to our community – her work inspires me that the next generation is listening and learning.

~~~~~~~~~

Darian

Honors English 11.5

13 March 2013

The Gay Rights Movement

 It seems as though in every generation there is a new rights battle to be won. Many people believe that all these battles have their own goals and shouldn’t be compared to any other Right’s movement, but in actuality each struggle boils down to one simple, repetitive concept that the infrastructure of our entire country rests upon: Equality. In the 1850’s women and some men fought together for gender equality. In the 1960’s blacks and whites alike fought for color equality. In the early 90’s, people with disabilities who couldn’t defend themselves were liberated by others who didn’t have anything to gain except gratitude.  Now, in 2013, the most diverse time period in history, Gay people are fighting for marriage equality and simple basic rights. My goal is to give them the full support of the straight population, including myself, because it has been shown throughout history that sometimes a little extra help can make all the difference. Although there is no excuse for discrimination, it is very prominent even in today’s day and age. Gay people, like every other group of unequals, are human, and today I would like to educate the population about the people who are dehumanized due to their sexuality. No person should have to face this kind of adversity. All of us, no matter how we feel morally about Gays, need to take a stand and fight for them and every other group of people that needs our help. We need to annihilate the opposition and get rights for our fellow Americans. It is our duty to be advocates for the American people and for the world.

The history of homosexuality dates back to the beginning of time. It has been discussed in such material as Plato’s Symposium, and even famous men such as Alexander the Great had an interest in other men (Pickett). However, in order to save time, I will not elaborate on the beginning history of Gays, but rather the beginnings of their liberation. The first recognized gay rights organization in the United States was founded December 10th, 1924. Since that time Gays have been working to gain the rights that every citizen is entitled to.

The real revolution began on June 28th, 1969 when Gays fought back against the police force at Stonewall Inn in New York. At the time, being Gay was considered a mental illness and there were no places where Gay men and women could meet and hang out. The privately owned Stonewall Inn was turned into a popular Gay bar and they had a place to go. When it was busted by the police, the Gays refused to show their ID’s and fought against them.  Many straight couples aided them in their battle. The attack went on until 4am and eventually the Stonewall Inn was burned and destroyed. After the riot, many people began to sympathize with the Gays. This infamous event became known as the Stonewall Riots, which fueled the fire that still burns today (TabooJive).

One of the greatest fallbacks for the Gay population originated around the 1960’s and  was pinpointed in 1982. This new disease, known today as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) became known as GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). AIDS is actually caused by a virus not a lifestyle, but at the time Gays were targeted as the cause of the new killer. There is actually sufficient evidence to prove that the AIDS virus was manmade. According to Alan Cantwell, MD, “By 1977 over 13,000 Manhattan gays were screened to secure the final 1083 men who would serve as guinea pigs to test the hepatitis B vaccine”(Cantwell, Gay Experiment). Just 5 years later, the first cases of AIDS showed up in Manhattan.”The gay community was the most hated minority in America. After the experiments ended, the gay community was decimated by the ‘gay plague’.” In the first years of AIDS, the epidemic was largely ignored by the government and the disease was blamed on gay anal sex, drugs, and promiscuity. Gays were immediately labeled ‘high risk'”(Cantwell, Homophobic Homosexuals). Despite this major set back, the Gay liberation was revived and developed into the movement that it is today.

The Pro-Gay Argument

While many people have been in an isolated homosexual experience, the number of exclusively Gay people in the United States is close to 2.5%  of the population (Tarmann) and for the first time in America there is a majority of support for Gays. “Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal…” says Damla Ergun, a journalist for ABC news (Ergun). For the first time, the discriminators are the minority. However, all is not won. Many anti-gay supporters do not believe that Gays can contribute to society at all and therefore should not have equal rights. In fact, there are many great things about gay people that should be presented and discussed.

Science is certainly not on the pro-Gay side, as it is genetically impossible for Gays to reproduce. However, that could be a good thing considering that many Gay families have turned to adoption in order to raise a family. According to the Williams Institute, UCLA school of law, about 6,477 children were adopted by Gays in 2000. By 2009, that number had skyrocketed to 21,740 and is still growing (Michelson). Although that is only a small minority of about 1% of all kids in the nation, it is still a huge advance for supporters of gay rights and homeless children alike. For Gay people that want to start a family, it is difficult but not impossible. The Human Right’s Campaign reported that 21 states and the District of Columbia are open to adoption for Gays. Although each have different rules about adoption, it is still achievable (Gay Adoption). It is also extremely beneficial for children that are put in the adoption system, as they are given a loving family.

In the episode, “Same Sex Parenting”, on 30 Days, directed by Morgan Spurlock, a woman that opposes Gay Adoption was sent to live with a Gay couple and their adopted children for 30 days. During her stay she met with advocates of adoption for children who faced the system themselves and they told her, “No child should have to deal with living in a group home. None of them come close to living with a real family….Whether black, green, white, gay, lesbian—whatever…The bottom line is, we need stable families for children” (30 Days). It is certainly a process, but completely worth it for the kids. Although Gay people cannot conceive their own children like a regular couple, they can save all the unwanted ones from the horrors of the adoption system and the world. In this way, Gays are providing love for children that wouldn’t otherwise receive it; a gift that most would agree is extraordinary to say the least.

Although the entire Gay Rights Movement is almost entirely based on ethics, there are some surprising facts about how married Gay couples can impact the economy greatly. According University of Rochester graduate, Jerome Nathaniel, it would be more likely for states to allow marriage if activists fought for economic reasons rather than ethical reasons. Since last July, when Gay marriage was legalized in New York, over 7,000 Gay couples have been married in the state. Over 200,000 people from around the country have come to the state to get married. New York gained $259 million in economic activity and $16 million in taxes. This huge economic increase is a great advantage of Gay marriage regardless of one’s moral stance. A second argument in support of Gay marriage is that same-sex couples are more likely to both bring in an income. If they are both bringing in high incomes, and file their taxes jointly, they can be required to pay higher taxes due to the “Marriage Penalty Act.” This will generate more money than taxing the two individuals separately. Divorce is also a costly procedure, and roughly 50% of all married couples will go through it. Sometimes more than once. This is another expensive battle that will generate revenue for the state (Nathaniel). This argument alone makes a strong case in support of Gays, but the list of good things that Gays can bring to the country is endless.

The Anti-Gay Argument

            Although there are great things about Gay people, like any other controversial topic there is opposition and huge amounts of it in this case. Much of the opposition comes from religion and really cannot be considered valid due to the secular nature of our government. It seems, however, that our government is not following the rules outlined in our constitution and, therefore, there are still some important points to consider. It is mostly a moral battle, and will be difficult to win on both sides; but many of the arguments opposing Gay Rights can be flipped around to be Pro-Gay Rights arguments, and thus cannot be very persuasive. Despite its lack of validity, the Anti-Gay side is an extremely popular movement, and it is important to consider the opposition in order to counter and conquer the Anti-Gay movement entirely.

When arguing against Gay Right’s most religious arguments revolve around the scripture, which many faithful followers believe is the word of God. Although the Bible is strictly interpretation, many followers believe that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible and therefore should be condemned in the country as well. There are approximately six quotes from the Bible that refer directly and indirectly to homosexuality. For example, one of the most popular quotes is in Leviticus 18:22 cited from the King James Version of the Bible. God is speaking to Moses, and he says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”(King James Bible, Lev. 18.22). It is difficult to to understand exactly what God was saying here because the Old Testament was written nearly 4,000 years ago; however, for many religious followers (branches of Christianity in particular) the word of God is law and they are not open to different interpretations. This quote from the Bible specifically condemns Gays to Hell and for most Christians that is where the line is drawn on Homsexuality. To religious people, Marriage is the union between a man and a woman in holy matrimony. Gays are not supported by the Bible, so to them Gays should also not be able to be married as marriage is considered a religious institution. Although much of this argument is invalid due to the freedom of religion or no religion that the First Amendment offers, it is a major argument and important to evaluate.

The religious argument has made it far into the minds of people; but fortunately, when it comes to the government, the argument is stopped in its tracks due the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Although it doesn’t directly state separation of church and state, it can be inferred in this quote that has been used for many years to defend the rights of certain groups of people including blacks and women: “[No citizen of] any state shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”(US Const. amend. XIV, sec. 1). In order to effectively counter against the Pro-Gay Movement, opposers had to make more valid arguments and have come up with things that are really just buffers because their real opinions cannot be used logically in the government.

 

Counter Arguments

            Although the arguments against Gays are sometimes correct, they don’t always tell the whole story. For example, in the Bible it does say that homosexuality is a sin, as stated earlier; however, in that same chapter it is also stated, “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him” (Lev. 20.9). Most Christians would agree that if their child is disrespectful to them they will certainly be punished but definitely not put to death. In that case, if we are not going kill rebellious children as the Bible says, how can being Gay possibly be a sin? Why is it that being Gay is an abomination as stated by the Lord, yet putting children to death is no longer ideal? It seems that if someone is going to follow the Bible they should follow all of it or none of it. How can we pick and choose what we want to hear and use that to constitute discrimination? We simply cannot. Thus, the religious argument against Gay rights is invalid.

The argument that marriage is a sacred, religious institution that must be preserved and will be ruined  by allowing Gays to be married is also inaccurate. Why is it that Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to NBA star, Kris Humphries (Pous), or Brittany Spears’ 55 hour marriage to Jason Alexander (Townsend) is completely legal and not punishable, yet Gay people who have been together for years cannot experience an actual, loving marriage? This is because the sanctity of marriage has been gone for many years. As previously stated, the divorce rate is 50%. Nearly half of all couples will go through it. And even more important, is that marriage is not only a religious institution, but a government institution as well. Because Gay couples cannot legally be married, they miss out on approximately 1,183 different benefits that traditional couples are endowed. Among these denied benefits are the right to assume parenting rights and responsibilities when a child is brought in through birth, the right to equally share all property in the event of a breakup, and the right to make decisions when a partner is in a medical emergency ( Rights Denied to Same-Sex Couples). Ultimately, these denied rights are not only demeaning, but in some cases can ruin lives. B

In 2007, Janice Langbehn and her partner of fifteen years, Lisa Pond, went on a cruise with their three children in Miami, Florida. Disaster struck when Lisa collapsed. She was rushed immediately to Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center. Upon her arrival, Janice was informed by the trauma social worker that she was in “an anti-gay city and state” and was not allowed to see Lisa or know of her condition. Even though the couples Medical POA was faxed within minutes, over the next eight hours neither Janice nor her children were permitted to see lisa and she died alone the next morning. Janice and her children did not get to say goodbye (Langbehn’s Bio).  Although this is an extreme case, it happens all the time. Since Janice and Lisa were not able to be married, she was not allowed to see the woman that she loved on her deathbed. Upon questioning, Janice said, “It’s not a Gay right, it’s a human right.” The right to say goodbye to a loved one should not be denied regardless of marriage status or sexual orientation. It is a simple right that every person should have, yet Janice and her children were denied due to the heartless discrimination that she faced. It is certainly not fair, and for this reason, we as a nation need to change.

Another popular argument is that being Gay is a choice. This argument has been proven wrong many times, yet many people still believe it. In 2007 the American Psychological Association stated that, “Homosexuality, in and of itself is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems.” Most of today’s psychologist view homosexuality as neither willfully chosen nor willfully changed, just as heterosexuals are not likely to engage in homosexual activity.  If homosexuality is not a choice, then the question arises, where does homosexuality come from? Many studies have conducted studies to find out the true cause of homosexuality and surprising results occurred. For example, in interviews with nearly 1000 homosexuals and 500 heterosexuals, Kinsey Institute Investigators found that Gay people are no more likely to have been smothered by maternal love, been fatherless, or been sexually abused than a straight couple (Bell et al.; Hammersmith et al.). As for things that do cause homosexuality, there are many. Among these are the number of older brothers a male has, the direction of hair whorls, relative finger lengths, age of onset puberty, and even their dominant hand (Myers). Although these may sound crazy, they are scientifically proven. Most importantly, however, is that it is possible to be born Gay. This is important because discriminating against someone because of their sexuality is the same as discriminating against someone because of their race or nationality. It cannot be changed.

One of the more logical arguments is that Gay couples cannot provide the benefits to children that heterosexual couples can. Some will go as far to say that Gay couples influence children to be Gay, but most people can agree that Gay couples will provide a different experience of growing up than that of a heterosexual couple.  In a study on the effects of being raised by same-sex couples,  Mark Regnerus found that “Less than 2 percent of children from intact, biological families reported experiencing sexual abuse of some nature, but that figure for children of same-sex couples is 23 percent”(Cooke). Although living with a Gay family is different, it is not necessarily a bad thing as Regnerus makes it seem. According to Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz , who conducted a study on the effects of children raised by Gay couples, there are many differences in the children but, “a difference is not a deficit.”  They found that boys raised by gays tend to be more nurturing and less aggressive. Girls tend to aspire to be doctors, lawyers, and in other fields traditionally dominated by men. They did not find an increase, however, in the chances of a child being gay, or their chances of developing a mental illness. These factors remained statistically the same as any child raised in a heterosexual home (Silsby).  Generally, adopting a child is not an easy process and for the most part, anyone that cannot provide a loving, safe home will be filtered out. The chances of a child being sexually abused by their adopted parents is very unlikely today. There is still much opposition to Gay adoption, but much of the argument ties back to ethics rather than logic.

Another common argument is that Gay people cannot have children which is the sole purpose of marriage. According to the Bible, when God created Adam and Eve, he told them to “…Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth…” (Gen. 1.28). At that time, when there were only two people on Earth, this was an essential part of life; but today it is not necessary to keep reproducing. Actually it would be better to reproduce less because we are overcrowding the Earth. According to the current Population Clock, there are now about seven billion people on Earth (Census.gov). The World Wildlife Foundation announced that “Earth is facing a looming ecological credit crunch and the current financial recession pales in comparison.” By 2030, we will need two planets (PHENOMENICA). Obviously, producing children is the least of our worries and the goals of marriage have changed. Traditionally, marriage was not about love but about survival; today,however, it is much more love based. Most people wouldn’t enter into a marriage with someone they didn’t love because life today is much more want focused rather than need focused. This new love based ideology makes anti-gay advocates wonder, if we allow Gays to be married, where do we draw the line? should marriages be extended  to animals, inscest, and poligamy too?  Although all these are very different situations, they tend to be lumped together to argue against the marriage of Gays. Perhaps we should legalize polygamist marriages, and perhaps not. It is not feasible, however, to assume that the legalization of Gay marriage will lead to the legalization of polygamy. They are completely different battles. Another way to think of it is with the concept of Choice outlined by Andrew Sullivan:

….Some people are constitutively attracted only to members of the same sex. By contrast, no serious person claims there are people constitutively attracted only to relatives, or only to groups rather than individuals. Anyone who can love two women can also love one of them. People who insist on marrying their mother or several lovers want an additional (and weird) marital option. Homosexuals currently have no marital option at all. A demand for polygamous or incestuous marriage is thus frivolous in a way that the demand for gay marriage is not.

Sullivan presents a logical case to an illogical argument(Chapter 6: The Slippery Slope). This is further proof that not only has marriage changed, but also, allowing same-sex marriages will not make it crumble.

            Regardless of a person’s opinion of Gay marriage and Gay rights, there really shouldn’t be an argument in the eyes of the law. It is true that in some states Civil Unions, or even marriage is available to same-sex couples. However, it isn’t recognized in every state. For example, If a couple gets married in New York and then moves to Texas it will be as if they were never married at all. This can cause huge problems similar to Janice Langbehn’s that should be prevented by the government. We should have learned our lesson in 1956 when segregation of blacks and whites was outlawed in Brown v. Board of Education, and “seperate but equal” came to an abrupt end. However, today Gays are given civil unions rather than an actual marriage and if they are able to be  married it can only be imaginary in some states.. Is this not considered “separate but equal”? And remember, segregation was outlawed because it was much less than equal,as are civil unions. If a straight couple is married, they are married wherever they go. If a Gay couple is married, it can only be in Pro-Gay states. This is segregation. It may not be as obvious as black segregation, but it is there. (Black History Timeline) As can be seen, these arguments against Gay marriage are not valid and do not constitute discrimination in any way.

Roots of Discrimination

One of the biggest reasons for this kind of discrimination is the fact that we don’t learn from history. Most people in today’s world would not discriminate against black people or against people of with disabilities but just a few generations ago, our grandparents were trying to prevent these same minorities from getting rights. I have no doubt that fifty years from now, Gay people will be liberated, but right now they are not. In order to change history we must learn from it. One of the greatest social injustices is the story of African Americans.

There are many similar ideas in both the Gay Right’s movement and the Black Civil Right’s Movement. Blacks have also been around since the beginning of time, and like Gays, cannot help that they were born black. This simple difference in skin color  provided for a new age of white superiority. As with the Gays, I will only speak of the black liberation rather than their entire existence, as it is extensive and their freedom is more important than the historic mistreatment that we are all aware of.

Since we were old enough to read and write the discrimination of colored people has been pounded into our heads in hopes of  teaching us good morals. We all know about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Rosa Park’s bus seat, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream.” Today, we sit and ponder how such discrimination ever could have taken place. How could anyone ever deny someone freedom simply because of the color of their skin? Just sixty years ago, however, the majority of white people in America felt superior to blacks. We find it hard to believe now, but then it was common practice. Segregation began in 1896, when the “Jim-Crow Laws” were passed. Blacks were free at this time, yet discrimination was still prevalent.The liberation for blacks didn’t begin until May 17th, 1956 when the “separate but equal case” outlined in Plessy v. Ferguson was reversed by the Brown v. Board of Education case. It was decided in a unanimous vote that racial segregation violated the 14th amendment and that separate but equal was, indeed, unequal and unfair.(Black History Timeline)

That court case was arguably the first step in igniting the revolution known as the Civil Rights Movement. In August of 1955, while visiting relatives from Mississippi, a fourteen year old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till allegedly whistled at a white woman behind the counter. He was beaten and shot to death by the woman’s husband and brother. They confessed to the crimes, but the case was acquitted and they got off scot free. On December 1st, 1955 just months after Emmett Till’s death, Rosa Parks, a black woman riding a bus in Montgomery, Alabama was asked to give up her seat to a white man. She refused and was sentenced to jail for breaking the segregation laws. Her refusal sparked interest from Civil Right’s  supporters and they began to boycott the busing system. On November 13th, 1956, in the Browder v. Gayle. case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the buses segregation policy unconstitutional. On August 28th, 1963, some 250,000 blacks and whites participated in the March on Washington. At this gathering, Dr. Martin Luther King gave one of the most famous speeches in American history; it was entitled “I Have a Dream.” (Black History Timeline)

Finally, a huge break came for the Blacks  on July 2nd, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Right’s Act into law. At its’ most basic level, it gave the federal government power to protect citizens against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, origin, and sex. This was a historic landmark for the Black liberation because they now had the protection of the federal government. By 1986 , such people as Oprah Winfrey  and Bill Cosby became  popular black television stars and in 2009, groundbreaking news that Barack Obama, a black man from Hawaii, had become president spread across the nation.(Black History Timeline)  It took the blacks over fifty years to finally overcome adversity, yet they have. Although the story of the Blacks seems to have little to do with Gays, it makes all the difference. The Black population is living proof that if a group of people wants to make a change, all they need to do is make a big uproar, gain sympathy, and fight.

The Road to Change

            After the Stonewall Riots, the Gay Rights movement changed forever. Today, with leaders like President Barack Obama engaging in the fight to end Gay discrimination we are forever changing as a nation. In 2010, we repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that prohibited Gay soldiers to reveal their sexual orientation in the military; and in 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. But the fight is not over. We must now work to repeal the Defense Against Marriage Act which prevents Gay marriages from being recognized by the federal government, and we must end discrimination which is a leading cause of suicide (The New Gay Rights Movement). With these facts presented, we can now make a change. According to Janice Langbehn, we can help the fight. She says:

…First know what is important to you.  For some it’s making sure there are homes or resources for Gay teens who have been kicked out of their homes. Or maybe it’s to fight for marriage equality in your state.  Find your niche and what you are passionate about, then read up on it.  Don’t duplicate the wheel – groups like HRC, GLAAD, or Lambda Legal have done the research – see if you can intern with a local equality group or nationally if you have the ability…(Langbehn).

For just a second forget how you feel morally about Gay people. Imagine if this was your friend, your child, or even yourself. Would you let rights be denied to them, or would you fight for them? If you are not Gay, please put yourself in their shoes for just a moment and realize how difficult it is for them. If you are Gay, know that there are thousands of people fighting for you and for your rights. The bottom line is that we must make this right. Call your friends, your relatives, and even your state legislators. Make signs, protest, and fight against the hate. Not only will this promote love, it will save lives.We have lost too many young people, and caused too many miserable lives. Imagine a world without someone you love. If we don’t fix this,  Gay people struggling to find their way will continue to be knocked down by discrimination Do not wait until it’s too late. It is time to end the hate and spread love and equality.

 

 

 

 

 

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