Equality?

Today is a pretty important day in the fight for civil and equal rights for LGBT folks in the US. Tomorrow is too. However, it also looks like the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is completely aware of how important this issue is. They are also aware of the fact that it is only in the last year or so that the majority of people in the country support civil unions equivalent to marriage or marriage rights for LGBT couples. If they make a ruling about this divisive issue in the next few weeks they will be continuing the forward march for civil equality but also giving a new rallying point for those against equality.

Essentially, the justices really don’t want to make this decision until we’ve reached a greater than 60% majority in support. Or at least that’s how I’ve been reading it.

Some reasons for that assessment: The argument against Prop 8 (the California constitutional amendment from 2008 that banned marriage or civil unions for anyone besides a single man to a single woman) is literally only arguing against Prop 8. They are not arguing for sweeping, nationwide changes. They are arguing explicitly for the amendment to be overturned and made null and void. Justice Roberts verified the point with the Solicitor General of the Obama administration, “[Y]ou are willing to wait in the rest of the country,” Roberts said. “You’re saying [same-sex marriage] has got to happen right now in California, but you don’t even have a position about whether it’s required in the rest of the country.” I don’t believe that the court really wants to get involved in something so sticky as ruling one way for a state but ruling another way for the country, as could happen with the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case they will be hearing tomorrow. There is a very high likelihood that they will defer ruling on Prop 8 and send it back down to the previous district courts (where there will be even more confusion about what to do next) because they will instead rule on DOMA.

What does this mean for the fight for marriage equality? That it’s not going to be so easy as having one or two hearings before SCOTUS. It’s going to continue to require a state by state battle to get equality of some sort. It’s going to require enough political action to actually get people to the voting booths, which is no small task. It’s going to require that we wait for older generations to pass on before the younger generations, where there is a clear majority of supporters, become the majority of voters. Or it’s going to require someone bring forth a clear, valid argument against a defense that could actually be valid long enough to be considered in court for why there should be sweeping, nationwide changes like what there was for Loving vs. Virginia in 1967. The repeal of DOMA and even overturning of Prop 8 are not going to make it happen, though either one being overturned will be a huge victory and add momentum to the equality cause.

I hope, I really do, that I am wrong. I hope that SCOTUS will rule in favor of overturning/repealing both. As much as it will be a rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage and equality, it could be enough to convince those who have been waiting to see who the winner is going to be that they ought to throw their support in for equality. That would be super awesome and make me a rather happy camper.

Honestly though, I think it would be rather nice if the whole marriage vs. civil unions thing would be figured out. I have a few friends that really deserve to be married but are only just now being given the opportunity to have a civil union. It’s nice and almost there, but not quite the same idea. Now, if government decided to get their noses out of marriage in general and only have civil unions recorded and all that for state records for everyone, I’d be down for that. Religious institutions could figure out what the hell marriage is and what it means and who or who can’t get married, but that special snowflake definition would only matter and be recorded within that particular institution. I think that would totally be a win-win for everyone. The religious folks could get a civil union with all the legal and tax benefits that come with it and get married through their religious institution and life would be good. There are enough open and non-denom and “we just like to have community!” sort of places that even non-religious folks could still get “married” if they really wanted to.

But hey, maybe I just don’t care all that much because “marriage” has always been an odd concept to me and I’ve always found it to be rather controversial anyway. The history of marriage has never boded well for women, even civil unions never really boded well for women. I would be completely fine with something that came with less baggage and was more personal. But, marriage is important to some people, including my husband, so… *shrugs* I say we make it so that everyone who wants to get married can. *nods*

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Equality

There are a lot of people arguing over equality. Marriage equality. Wage equality. Equal citizenship. Equal rights to work. Equal access to health care. A whole schlew of things, many of which I don’t recall because they all fit under one big flag – every person has a few basic rights that should not be put under question.

Everyone should have access to health care. Done. This is the minimum, at least in my opinion. Does that mean that if you can pay more or have more resources that you are not able to get better health care? No. That just means that there is a certain very basic level of health care that everyone should have access to and that if you want more you can pay for it. It’s pretty much the same as what we have now, only it would elevate the people at the very bottom to have *something*.

Everyone should have the opportunity to work. That doesn’t mean that I think every company needs to have so many of each different “minority” or “special interest” group represented. What it means is that if you are qualified for a job, then you should be considered for it regardless of your gender, your religion, your race, your sexuality, or disability. If you have the brains and capabilities to do the job then that means you should be able to do it. This doesn’t only apply to minority groups. I have made arguments for why men are just as capable as women to be nurses and my arguments were enough to make it so that two nurses I currently work with were kept in for consideration and eventually hired. Job discrimination needs to end.

Everyone should get paid similar wages for doing similar work. There are still studies that are showing that women and other “minority” groups – side note, how is it that 50% of the population is considered a minority group? Let’s think about the origin of this please. – earn less income than their male counterparts. Some of it can be attributed to men overwhelmingly ending up in higher manager or specialist positions. However, women that are in similar or the same positions earn less income, usually by thousands of dollars a year. Why is that?

I don’t care who you are or who you love, but if you’re both consenting adults, no one should be able to deny you access to receiving a marriage certificate. Churches don’t get the final say in whether someone is married. My husband and I got married outside of a church and with no church backing. It is a civil/legal thing, not a religious thing. There are civil/legal changes that happen with marriage, not religious. The fact that I can get married but that many of my good friends cannot is frustrating. Nothing my husband or I do is anything special or different that means we should get treated differently. Why is it okay for anyone to deny them access to something that is pretty much assumed that everyone will do? I don’t get it.

Which brings us to everyone being treated as a citizen of their country. I am a white woman within the United States. I have access to rights that women 100 years ago were just starting up the fight for. I am not old enough to have been witness to the civil rights movement 50 years ago, but it was the next great step in slowly defeating bigotry and intolerance. Another side note, I hate that people use “I support tolerance” and other such things. I am against intolerance and am for inclusion. I don’t “tolerate” people for their differences, though I do sometimes tolerate individual people’s actions or words because the *facepalm* worthy moments are nothing compared to the person overall. I don’t even “accept” people for their differences. I love people for themselves, I enjoy spending time with them, I enjoy their company, I choose to be around them. I don’t have to “tolerate” or “accept” them, because both those words imply that there was another possibility, that I could have been intolerant or denied them.

I know it’s asking a lot, but I would love to see the rest of the nation (or world even) get to this point. We lay down certain rights and privileges and then laws and codes that lay down the consequences for people who go against those rights or abuse their privileges. The privileges of some should never overrule the rights of even a single person and the rights and privileges of individuals should be held above those of corporations, organizations, institutions, states or nations.

That should be the end of the story there. I doubt it actually will ever make it to that point, but I’ll do my part to make it happen, even if it is a far shot.

Extra, Extra: Chikining Out

I didn’t write this, but a good friend of mine did. She’s an amazing woman who is married to another amazing woman and has the sweetest wee little baby girl. It’s disturbing and disheartening to know that not only is she and her family having to deal with the 40-something percent of the nation that believe she and her family are second class citizens, but that her own family is part of that 40-something percent, not part of the 2-5 percent that are uncertain as I had been under the impression of.

I know her mother, her father and at least one of her sisters. I knew her mother and father were… uncertain of exactly what to do with their daughter and her girl-friend, now wife. However, I had not realized that the uncertainty was still covering a foundation of intolerance. I have no idea how they are able to honestly go about their interactions with their daughter’s family and not be confronted every single time with having to make a choice between loving their daughter and her family and still harboring a deep belief that how they live is not right. It may no longer be wrong, but it’s not right either.

I go on too much, let her speak for herself.

Extra, Extra: Chikining Out.

Surprising Revelations at Work

There are always people who surprise me by their belief systems or tolerance for others. The more educated an individual is, the more they are capable of surprising me. Recently, I have been not just surprised, but astounded by comments from one of my co-workers, a psychiatrist to be more specific. Some of the people who read this may actually know her, but just in case I will not name any names. Also, I hope this does not color negatively any opinions toward her. She’s still a wonderful psychiatrist and I still like working with her.

What is it that she surprised me with? Apparently she has a pretty significant misconception and negative bias toward GLBT persons and is much more conservative in her beliefs than I expected. She has done a very good job of keeping her personal beliefs from interfering with her job, I have to give her credit for that. I didn’t even know she had a bias against people who can be identified in the GLBT, sexually diverse/different, or pro-abortion, etc. groups until very recently. It does however make some of her comments throughout the last few years make more sense. For example, she was very surprised when a patient told her that she (the patient) had asked for the doctor who was the most tolerant of sexual deviancy and the front desk set her up with this particular psychiatrist. it probably had something to do with who had openings as well, but still, it was something that shocked the psychiatrist enough that she wanted to share her surprise with me (and another nurse) soon after the appointment was done with.

About 6 weeks later she shared with me her experiences at a conference she went to. It took place in southern California and there were many more GLBT professionals than she has ever interacted with. During the course of the three day conference she discovered that she could relate to just about everything the gay/lesbian men and women were sharing and even the way they shared their own stories. It was probably the absolute best conference for this revelation to occur at since the entire point was to discover how to actually hear patients and other people, basically let them share their stories without interruption. The participants could only speak one at a time and the ones who weren’t speaking could only listen, they could not comment except to the entire group after each exercise.

Mind you, the reason why this truly astounded me was because her nurse (the one for her outpatient caseload) is a gay man. It took me all of 5 minutes interacting with him to determine two things – he was gay and was an INTP in the Meyers-Briggs personality system. The second was just a nice thing to know, the first was just another thing to know so I could know how better to relate to him. However, this psychiatrist has worked with him for nearly two years and hasn’t a clue. When I mentioned my surprise to the other nurse he just shrugged it off as something he has seen before. People who don’t want to accept GLBT individuals are unaware of the vast number of people that are GLBT.

I do have to admit that while I’m surprised and honestly a bit disappointed to know that someone I highly respect has such a bias, I do have to respect how well she is able to separate her personal beliefs from how she treats and interacts with her patients. As far as I’m aware, she has never demonstrated any sort of negative, derogatory or unthinking behaviors towards her patients or in front of our other co-workers, especially when we are discussing patients. I don’t know how much our other co-workers interact with her regarding more personal matters, so I’m not sure if I’m either late to the party or someone she feels comfortable with and is willing to share such belief systems that are contrary to the norm within the agency we work for. Well, at least as far as I can tell that is. I could very likely be surprised by other people that I work with. In the same way though, I don’t believe it would decrease my respect for them for the same reasons. As far as I can tell they do not let their personal beliefs interfere with how they interact with our patients. That’s something to be proud of really. And they should give themselves a 4 on the diversity and tolerance/acceptance part of our self-assessment thingy. 😉

I do wish that everyone believed as I do – that as long as no one is harmed that any way of being and living and loving is okay – but I know that the chances of that happening in my lifetime are slim. However, I do hope that as we all learn more about each other, the more tolerant (accepting even?) we can all be towards others regardless of whether we agree with them or not. I think it would go a long way toward the world being that much better of a place to live in. When it comes down to it, that’s really what I want. I don’t want people to all agree with me, but I do want the world to be a better and more tolerant, and maybe even accepting, place. I also don’t think it’s too much to ask. Do you?