America: Land of the free. Freedom of religion, freedom to sue whomever you please, freedom to marry your first cousin in 27 states and freedom to marry your significant other of the same sex in … eight? With evidence that a considerable number of Americans are in favor of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, what’s stopping us from moving beyond one of our last remaining forms of institutionalized discrimination? And what’s stopping our executive-in-chief from leading our progress?
President Obama has taken care to demonstrate his compassion for gay couples and has firmly established his open-mindedness on the issue of marriage, but he has yet to spit out any official endorsement on the matter. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Obama is to accept the Democratic nomination in September; elections are rapidly approaching, and the pressure is on.
President Obama was initially voted into office under the pretense that he was running to create “change” and “progress” in America, but when it comes to gay marriage, his stance is less than reflective of his constituents. According to a recent poll by NBC News, 49 percent of Americans now support gay marriage. President Obama, however, publicly remains in the eight-percent minority of people who say they have not chosen a stance.
As a young American voter, a member of one of the most influential demographics of his election, I would be far more willing to give him a second chance if he would take the leap and support marriage for gay couples. He could even put himself on the path to becoming a historically celebrated emancipation president.
Obama has taken some active steps to expand rights for gay couples. He issued the Presidential Memorandum directing the HHS secretary, “to ensure that those hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds will give gay and lesbian patients and their families the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve in difficult times.”
Some might say that’s fair enough. I won’t deny that it was a kind gesture. But why is it that “straight” Americans are granted the 118 additional rights that marriage gives to you and others are not? Some of the major ones are Social Security, Medicare,and disability benefits for spouses; the right to take leave from employment to care for spouses during illness; and the right to make burial and other final arrangements for deceased spouses.
How can we say that we are a free country when human beings, solely due to sexual orientation, are banned from these rights?
I have faith—especially as a young college student witnessing the growing popularity of the pro-gay-marriage movement among my peers—that my generation’s grandchildren will be learning about marriage equality laws in their history courses. My generation’s grandchildren will see the inhumanity that once existed in the mainstream. They will celebrate the first president to federally enact marriage rights for gay Americans.
Is it not absurd that we have not gotten there yet? With all of the technology, enlightenment and progress we’ve made elsewhere as a society, how have we continued to put this aside for so long?
To the president who boasts “Change for America,” I say, “Please. Change your mind.”