Past, Present, Progress: Overstating Equality

Many of us may feel like we’re living in the “future” when we remember that we are in the beginning of the year 2013. What did we expect to have happened by now? Flying cars? Downloadable food? Not quite. What about marriage equality?

Advocate.com boldly declared, “Fewer Americans Say Being Gay is a Sin.” They spout off a few statistics showing a drop in the number of Americans who count homosexual behavior as a sin, according to a poll performed by a Christian-oriented research firm. It is always encouraging to see signs that the world may indeed be changing (baby step by baby step) for the better, but we are far from the goal of that vague, always-out-of-reach “equality.” Are we really as progressive as we think we are? As long as there is a percentage greater than zero that does represent those who count homosexuality as a sin, can we really be satisfied with our moral growth?

That is not to say that we should not be grateful for such bold declarations that hint at America’s move toward a more liberal, accepting nation. This development may be true. After all, the president of the United States did state publicly last year that he believes in the right to have same-sex marriage. Gay marriage was on the ballot in four states in the 2012 elections. Wisconsin elected the United States’ first openly gay senator. And around the world, other societies are taking action or at least discussing gay marriage.

But is this enough? Would it even be enough if gay marriage was legalized all around the world, or even in all 50 states of America? Of course that would be a tremendous leap forward, but we all know that racism is not fully eradicated despite the elimination of segregation and discrimination laws. Would homophobia and prejudice truly be erased if same-sex marriage were legal?

I don’t think so. Granting people the right to have a same-sex marriage would only appropriate homosexual couples into normative customs. We might take comfort in believing, “They’re just like us!” when in fact similarities or differences shouldn’t determine whether or not we will treat everyone as the human beings that we are.

In a hypothetical world where everyone is granted equal rights, would people still be judged for having casual homosexual relationships, committing adultery or even having one-night-stands? When those who identify as “straight” engage in these sorts of behaviors, they are hardly grounds for denying the right to have a heterosexual marriage. (Nor are heterosexuals deemed unfit to raise children for the kinds of relationships they have, whether they are successful or not.) Similar behaviors performed by non-heterosexual people, however, are more often reprimanded and labeled as perverse.

And the world is not necessarily split into gay and straight. What about transgender, intersex and bisexual people? These words are foreign to many. If marriage became debated for people who identify as any or none of these things, where would the list of people whose rights can be debated end?

Ultimately, the world is slowly advancing in its social policies. It will take longer to enlighten those who hold on to double standards and insist that others should behave in a uniform manner despite their personal preferences, but at least more and more people are realizing what a ridiculous notion that is.

Karam Johal is a third-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.