There have been many posts this week of personal lists of things to be thankful for.
Many people wrote about their thankfulness for their family, and sometimes for their spouses in particular.
I'd like to remind us all that those who are thankful for their spouses should be thankful that they're given the right to have those spouses.
Those who are thankful for their children, also need to be thankful for the fact that they are allowed to raise their children unencumbered and legally.
And in this day and age in the U.S., at a time when an African American has finally made it into the White House, we still have a large percentage of our population who do not share those basic human rights.
Our Declaration of Independence, the document on which our country was founded, puts things this way: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Shouldn't a loving relationship, a legally-sanctioned, I-love-you-forever kind of relationship count as part of that pursuit of happiness? Since when did the 14th Amendment guarantee rights to only part of our population?
In case you forgot about the 14th Amendment, let me just refresh your memory:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
There has been a great deal written about Proposition 8. The California dream that allowed couples to legally wed, was snatched away quickly in November. And no, don't even think that it was "the voice of the people" speaking - as with most major political campaigns, this was all about who had the most money and the most power. There was a concerted effort to remove this basic right from our LGBT citizens.
Along with Proposal 8, there was Florida Proposition 2, developed to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. There is already a state law on the books to this effect, but this wasn't enough for straight Floridians who apparently feel that the right to marriage should only be given to certain parts of the population, that apparently the "everyone is created equal" business doesn't apply to LGBT citizens.
Then there's Arizona's Proposition 102, similar to Florida's Proposition 2, which also passed. This was seen to have passed because it didn't forbid Civil Unions - I mean, that's fair, right? You can still have a "legal partnership".
What is fair about some of our citizens having certain rights and those rights being denied to other segments of our population?
It is NOT fair - but more about that later.
In some ways, to me personally, the most insidious of the laws passed in November was Arkansas's Act 1, which forbids foster parenting or adoptions by any unmarried couple. And, of course, if you're a LGBT couple in Arkansas, it's illegal for you to be married. So here, we're not only affecting the rights of our citizens to be married or to be parents, we're also affecting the rights of children to be placed in loving homes.
You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: our country has a large deficit of children, especially older children, who need loving homes. Who need stable families. We have parents waiting to adopt them. We have stable couples who have committed to each other for longer than the child's parents ever did, but um, hey - they're not allowed to be parents because they love someone who is the same sex?
Having been a teacher for 25+ years, I've seen parental rights terminated. Those few terminations have been for good reasons. We're talking crack or meth addicts who've failed every attempt at rehabilitation, six-year-olds living cold and hungry because Mama drank up every last penny of income, children coming into school with burn marks all over their bodies.
I've also sat across the table from Gay and Lesbian couples who are parents of children I've taught.
And they're the same as my other strong, loving parents. They may not be perfect, but are any of us as parents?
I've only seen one situation where children suffered due to having Lesbians as parents, and that was only due to the fact that this couple did not have equal rights under the law. When the couple split up, one woman left the other for a man and decided to rescind the rights of her partner. Despite the fact that her partner had shared in parenting these children up through age nine (when the split took place), this woman decided that she was now "straight" and didn't want the partner hanging around in any way. And she was able to do this because her name was the one on the adoption papers. Because she lives in a state where adoptions by Gay or Lesbian couples is illegal. Now before you argue that this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been Lesbians because Lesbian couples are unstable, shame. on. you.
How many heterosexual couples do you know who have split up?
We're closing in on a 50% divorce rate in this country. Some couples make it; some don't, and whether you're straight or gay has no bearing on that. And shouldn't the children of gay couples receive the same rights as those of straight couples? It's about the children, people.
Now all of you who are fathers out there, how would it be if your wife left you and took the kids, and was allowed to do so because "the mother is the only one with legal rights".
You've been with those children every second of their lives, changed their diapers, gazed lovingly in their eyes, kissed their booboos, took them swimming, tucked them in at night, were role models in right and wrong.
But hey, your womb didn't carry them, so why should you have rights?
Okay, I've gone on way too long here. In fact, I waited way too long to write this post. I've actually started this post way too many times.
There's nothing that I can write here that will be good enough.
There's nothing that I can write here that can truly express how wrong this is to live in the United States of America, this supposed bastion of Democracy and equal rights, and not have full rights extend to ALL our citizens.
Those who believe they have moral arguments, against these marriages, fine - that's your belief system. But honestly, can you believe that it's right to deny rights to only one segment of our population?
As long as this situation exists, we've got a long, long way to go. As Obama said in his victory speech: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.".
But you know what? It's still not here.