At the beginning of this month, I had the privilege of attending a NOH8 function with a dear friend of mine. It was a photo shoot in beautiful downtown Vancouver. I was so impressed with the work of the NOH8 campaign and with President Obama’s recent affirmation of the rights of gay people to marry, that I just had to blog about it.
I loved the idea of people sporting a duct-taped face with the NOH8 logo on one cheek, photographed by none other than Adam Bouska in a variety of poses. I loved that many non LGBT family and friends were there to support their loved ones. I loved that the day after the event, I received a text from the same friend letting me know that President Obama had affirmed his belief that gay people ought to have the right to marry. How fortuitous that an African-American president, running for reelection, had the temerity to historically state, “…it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” This is of course, after stating this: “…I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community….” Would civil unions, enacted into law, been enough? What if the proverbial tables were turned and male-female marriages were not recognised? At least a modern, sitting president was willing to accept that change is taking place whether “federalized” or not.
Whatever is happening, we have to remember two very important things here: First, historic though it may be, a presidential affirmation does not legislation make. Second, that the presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is in favour of a “federal constitutional amendment” banning same-sex marriage. And let’s not forget that 30 American states have passed laws banning same-sex marriage, so where does that leave President Obama’s affirmation? Well, legally, it doesn’t have much on which to stand. Morally, and perhaps most importantly, it has made the personal political and the political personal.
Even the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is rather vague on this issue; it has no specific dialogue on the rights of members of the LGBT community marrying, however, given when it was drafted, its language is somewhat inclusive:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
This leaves the presidential affirmation in a state of social acceptability but not of legal acceptability. It may yet take another twenty years for the United States to pass a law that legalizes same-sex marriage in every state and allow for same-sex divorces in much the same manner of heterosexual marriage and divorce. Here’s what would make the most succinct difference: a constitutional amendment that does not allow for a same-sex marriage law to be repealed under any circumstance. I always question what happened in the legal process that allowed for same-sex marriages to take place and then have the courts declare that the same law was repealed, thus voiding the marriages of many a couple who thought that finally, the law had been updated to reflect ‘modern’ society.
How did we become a society that allows for people to get married and then the next day, tell them their marriage isn’t valid because some people disagree with their rights to be married?
I realise that I am a little behind in my blog this time, but I wanted to collect my thoughts because many people I love are affected by this issue. Moreover, I wanted to encourage those of you who broke out the champagne and celebrated President Obama’s affirmation to continue keeping the hope alive, but bring out the bubbly when same-sex marriage becomes federal law in the United States.
In the meantime, wishing you all good things! And cheers to the NOH8 Campaign!