Social Change & The Law: Gay Marriage and Human Rights

A florist in Washington State recently made headlines when, after years of providing her florist services to a gay couple, refused to provide services for their wedding, citing it would be a betrayal of "her relationship with Jesus Christ."

In 2007, when my ex-wife and I were planning our wedding, we had a printing business accept our request for printing our invitations. It wasn't until they went to print them that they realized the ceremony was for two women getting married. They called our invitation designer, saying they refused to print our invitations. This left us scrambling to find a printer who would be able to get them done in time.

Our experience was, unfortunately, not unique. Last year, two friends of mine (both women) were denied booking an outdoor event space for their wedding ceremony and reception, based on the fact that they are a same-sex couple.

These are just a few examples of overt discrimination in our society around gay marriage.

By the way, won't it be exciting when the day comes when we no longer have to distinguish it as "gay marriage" and it can just be marriage!? I don't eat gay breakfast, have gay hobbies, or pay my gay bills.

While our society has made huge strides in the acceptance and integration of gay people, we still have room for improvement.

I am thankful for the progress that has been made and for the people who have blazed the trail ahead of me so I can enjoy being an out gay woman without fear of my physical safety (at least most of the time). However, even as our society is heading in the right direction, including laws that are inclusive of gay rights (or, as I like to call them, human rights), sometimes social change doesn't happen until a while after laws do.This is why it's incredibly important that our laws embrace human rights for all people. It will be exciting watching the Supreme Court this summer in some landmark cases dealing with the rights of the LGBT population.

I think of the song Same Love, by Macklemore:

When kids are walking 'round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are And a certificate on paper isn't gonna solve it all But it's a damn good place to start No law is gonna change us We have to change us Whatever God you believe in We come from the same one Strip away the fear Underneath it's all the same love

Sometimes it takes society seeing that what they are afraid of isn't actually a threat to them before they are willing to change their beliefs.

As I said earlier, I am so thankful for those who have blazed the trail ahead of me. They are countless and sometimes go unnoticed and unthanked, but their impact is priceless. Two current inspirations of mine are comedienne and media personality Ellen DeGeneres  and singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.

Ellen DeGeneres recently made headlines when she made her own Supreme Court "brief" regarding the upcoming Proposition 8 case. In it, she states, "Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don’t think we hurt anyone else’s marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they’re fine." She also states, "The truth is, Portia and I aren’t as different from you as you might think. We’re just trying to find happiness in the bodies and minds we were given, like everyone else."

Ellen brings up an important message: that we are all human in search of happiness and love. And, I would posit that no one could successfully argue that her marriage has been hurtful to their own.

Brandi Carlile is one of my favorite musicians. She is talented, funny, and has a huge humanitarian heart. She's also gay. She married her wife, Catherine Shepherd, this year. (Congratulations, you two. So happy for you!). Together they run The Looking Out Foundation. Founded in 2008, "the mission of the Looking Out Foundation is to support, through music, humanitarian outreach efforts in local communities and beyond." It's a beautiful foundation that gives generously to support communities in need. Brandi doesn't usually make a big deal about her sexuality in the media, but she doesn't hide it, either. She mentions her wife in concerts, shares pictures of the two of them on social media, and includes mentions of Catherine on her website. She's graceful and kind. I also happen to know from personal interactions over email that her wife is one of the kindest people around.

I follow Brandi's fan Facebook page, and in one of her announcements about her marriage this year, a fan made a comment about how he loved her music but "couldn't support her lifestyle or marriage." This fan's position presents a huge quandary for me. You don't get the leisure of separating a human being into bits and pieces. Brandi is a whole person. And, her marriage is a big part of her, as is her music. She makes that very clear. I'd also like to ask her "fan," what do you think inspires her love songs that you so thoroughly enjoy? Yup, that's right. Her big GAY loving heart -- or, her big loving heart, as I'd like to call it.

Another recent inspiration around social change in terms of the way we use language is Ash Beckham. Her talk at Ignite Boulder on the usage of the term "that's so gay" is so inspiring. She manages to be funny, clever, intelligent and brings home the important message in a meaningful and profound way. Check out the video of her talk here.

Society often wants to separate gay people into "who they are" and their "lifestyle." This can not be done.

Nobody claims a heterosexual person who loves, lives, and aims for happiness is living a "heterosexual lifestyle." We are each dynamic, loving, human beings. Each and every one of us. Describing our lives as "the gay lifestyle" is just another way to frame us as different and abnormal.

Interracial marriage finally became legal in the United States 1967. It was a long battle, especially in the Deep South, to gain this human right for our population. As of 2011, many people in Mississippi still support bans against interracial marriage. However, most of us don't think twice about whether people "should" or "shouldn't" be "allowed" to legally wed a person of a different racial origin from themselves. It's a human right to marry whomever you want.

I use the interracial marriage example to show that sometimes law changes first and social change follows. I am thrilled that laws are changing in favor of LGBT rights, and I trust societal change will continue to evolve.

As the laws continue to change, instances of discrimination against gay people may be pervasive for awhile. This gives us an opportunity to lovingly stand up for what we believe in as our human rights. It also gives us an opportunity to share when/where people and/or businesses are beautifully inclusive.

I believe America is a wonderful place to live. I love and appreciate my freedom. I am proud of the change we are making and am looking forward to continued extension of human rights in this amazing place.

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