It seems that everywhere you look these days someone is either criticizing or cheering on Chick-fil-A for their statements regarding gay marriage. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t think that anyone should have a right to tell someone not to express theirs. After all, we do live in America, the land of free speech. However, I think it’s a little ridiculous that a fast food chain has to even take a stand on gay rights in the first place. But that’s okay – perhaps it is just a catalyst by which the issues of inequality facing Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) Americans will be brought to light. It is already causing quite a ruckus across our country as voices on both sides of the issue are shouting from the rooftops. In a nutshell, it has everyone talking and believe it or not, that’s a good thing. If President Obama didn’t make a big enough waves with his proclamation of support for the LGBT community in May 2012, Chick-fil-A has followed up with a tsunami that is catching everyone’s attention.
I was raised in a Christian household and taught that homosexuality was wrong and warranted an eternity in Hell if you didn’t repent and change your ways. My great-grandmother was a lesbian and my grandmother and I would pray for her to find Jesus and be saved from her sin. These memories from my childhood still stay with me today. Unfortunately this also delayed my coming out. It wasn’t until I met my first girlfriend that I finally felt complete and secure in who I was. I know it sounds cheesy but it is true – it was like fireworks from day one with her and I felt real and comfortable for the first time. Finally, at 21, I had figured out what was missing in my life and recognized a truth I had battled with since childhood – I am a lesbian, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Four and a half years later, we enjoy many of the same things as straight couples such as getting married and sharing a last name, having joint bank accounts, and now, expecting our first child together. Unfortunately, while all of those things are wonderful, it doesn’t mean we are treated fairly or equally by any stretch of the imagination. Our marriage is invalid not only in our home state of Florida, but also in the eyes of our Federal government, despite our marriage being performed and recognized by Washington, D.C. It comes down to something as simple as having to check the box for “single” on our tax returns because we can’t file our taxes as married or even married-filing-separately. There are more complex issues, too. We can be refused visitation rights at a hospital unless we have legal documents in place, and sometimes even that isn’t good enough. Since my wife is carrying our child, my name can’t be put on the birth certificate unless I adopt my own child. God forbid anything were to happen to my wife before I adopt, because if she were to die, the courts could take my child and give him or her to my wife’s next of kin instead of me. We have to have powers of attorney, wills, health care directives, and guardianship agreements just to attempt to cover only a percentage of the rights granted with a heterosexual marriage, rights that are given freely and automatically and with no extra hoops to jump through. In order to attempt to protect ourselves and our growing family, we have to take far too many extra legal steps. The sad part is that even unmarried heterosexual couples have more rights than we do in some cases.
Since the birth of this country, Americans have risen to the occasion and fought for the equal treatment of all citizens. It took hundreds of years for women to have the right to vote. It took hundreds of years for African Americans to enjoy freedom. The LGBT community is no different, so get ready. We are history in the making. We are the next civil rights movement. One day our children will learn about these times in history class. Our children will not only learn why they have the right to vote and why they are free, but also why they have the right to love whoever they want. Trying to prevent that future from happening is shameful.
It is idiotic to disagree that denying the LGBT community their rights as Americans and as humans is wrong. It’s not right how many extra steps we must take and how much money we must spend to legally protect our families. It’s not right how people think we are less deserving of the same rights and freedoms just because we love women, or men, or both. It’s not right how many hate crimes are carried out against our youth because they are attracted to someone of the same gender or don’t identify as the gender they were born. It’s not right that who we are as people somehow means we are not entitled to the rights drafted in our own Declaration of Independence, the very foundation on which this country was formed: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To those who oppose LGBT equality – just who do you think you are? How can you believe that you have the power to deny us our human rights?
So thank you, Chick-fil-A, for bringing to the forefront of American consciousness the fact that unequal treatment is still a reality. I didn’t write this letter in order to influence people to boycott Chick-fil-A. I didn’t write this to promote President Obama’s re-election. I didn’t write this in order to belittle anyone’s beliefs or right to those beliefs. I didn’t write this to further some “gay agenda”. I wrote this because it is what I felt in my heart was the right thing to do. I wrote this for all of those like me who long for the day when equality is not just a distant dream. I wrote this for my friends, my family, and my fellow LGBT’s. I wrote this for those who maybe couldn’t find the words to say it themselves. I wrote this to make people think of something other than themselves and the rights they take for granted every single day. I wrote this for those who have experienced the hatred and ignorance firsthand. I wrote this for those who came before me and for those that will come after. I wrote this for me, for my wife, and for our unborn child. I wrote this so that one day, someone who reads this can make a change in the world. This is not just an American issue, this is a human issue. Every single human being deserves the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whatever form that happiness may take.