Imagine you have fallen in love with the person of your dreams, and the two of you have discussed it and have decided to get married. Now imagine that the person you wish to marry is of a different race. It wouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well, if this situation had occurred about 50 years ago, it would have been a huge deal. Just a generation ago, many states banned mixed marriages. Seems absurd, doesn’t it? Discriminating against an individual like that because of the color of their skin? This is a situation in America that I am sure all of you are familiar with, and most all of us I am sure agree that just because a person has different colored skin does not make them any different on the inside. We don’t discriminate against minorities because of their color of their skin, so why is it that we now discriminate against gays and lesbians because of what is in their hearts? It is the same type of discrimination, and it needs to be stopped. How do we go about doing that, you ask? Don’t worry, I am not going to be unrealistic and ask you to become a gay-rights activist and make supporters of all of your friends and family. I am just going to ask you to do your small part to help give homosexuals the ability to marry. It is unfair to deny them this right, and together we need to act in order to give them this right, this equality, that they deserve.
As I have told you all in my last two speeches, there are legal rights and benefits that come with marriage that homosexuals are being denied. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, many of the benefits of marriage that homosexuals are denied include: government benefits like Social Security and Medicare; hospital visitation rights; special rates and exemptions on tax returns; joint child custody; joint insurance policies; automatic inheritance in the absence of a will; making medical decisions on a partner’s behalf; and choosing a final resting place for a deceased partner. While none of these are reasons to get married, they are all benefits and perks that homosexuals should not be denied simply because of their choice of a partner. They are rights that homosexuals are entitled to and deserve, and are rights that they would be able to benefit from if same-sex marriages were legalized. When you put yourself in their shoes, as I have had you do in my past speeches, it is clear to see that they deserve these rights as much as heterosexual couples do, and that their choice of partner should not affect these basic rights.
I am sure you are all still asking yourselves just how YOU can make a difference. Well, you could become active in a gay-rights group, you could organize a rally in Red Square, you could even collect signatures and attempt to gain enough support to put the issue on the ballot for the next elections. But let’s be realistic here. We are all students, and are busy with the stress of finals and even graduation for some. The minute that school ends, all we are going to be thinking about is laying out in the sun, taking advantage of three months (or even the rest of your lives) without homework. So who has the time or energy to do any of the things I just suggested? That is why I am just going to ask you to become a supporter by signing a document called the “Marriage Resolution.” This is a resolution formed and monitored by a group called The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. The marriage resolution, according to the Partner’s Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples, reads as follows: “Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.” According to Evan Wolfson, the Director of the Marriage Project of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the resolution is aimed to: help promote the necessary discussion and awareness of our equal marriage rights among gay and non-gay people; collect signatures and supporters as evidence of a growing coalition; and give people a tool and a task in building that coalition and approaching others. It is a tool to reach out and gather support from the American population, support that they can later gather and use with the government in order to legalize same-sex marriages. This is the most practical solution in our situation because it is so easily done and it takes mere minutes to complete the form. Once the form is signed, the work of putting it to use is handed over to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. It will not take time away from studying for your finals, celebrating your graduation, or enjoying your summer break. You simply show your support and let the professionals do what needs to be done with it.
To partake in this resolution, all you have to do is sign the piece of paper I will later hand out to you and the end of my speech, and I will mail it out to the Lambda Legal Defense group. Your commitment ends there. They are compiling all the names of those who sign their resolution and will take the appropriate legal steps when the time comes. I am sure there are those of you out there wondering why the heck you should bother signing, because you probably feel as if it doesn’t affect you at all. However, this is not the case. I am sure all of you either do or will know someone who is gay, whether it be a friend, family member, co-worker, or even fellow student. According to the survey that 15 of you filled out completely, 73% of you said you would be supportive of this individual and their choice of a partner, while the remaining 27% were unsure as to how you would react. Not a single individual said they would not be supportive. But in order to support someone, doesn’t that mean supporting what it is that makes them happy? And if marriage is what makes them happy, wouldn’t you want to support them in it? The National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law put it quite well when they said “as activists…you…have a critical role in preparing the groundwork NOW for when this issue comes to your home state, as it will. This landmark civil rights battle cannot be left just to lawyers…every state, every gay person, every person who cares about equality will be called upon to defend [these] rights.” I know many of you have religious issues with the idea of homosexuality that may make this difficult for you. In fact, according to my survey, almost half of you do not religiously support it. That is why the Marriage Resolution is the perfect thing for you to support. You are not campaigning to have same-sex marriages legalized, nor are you being asked to make a choice on a ballot. Not yet at least. All you are doing is signing a piece of paper that says you do not believe the state should be interfere with the wishes of same-gender couples who wish to marry. This is a way of showing your support for your friend and loved one without having to actually go out and make marriage legal for them. It does not necessarily mean that you want to legalize same-sex marriages, only that you do not believe it is an issue that the State should interfere with.
This is the resolution I am asking you to sign. If you return it to me by the end of our speech rounds, I will send it off to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. While this alone may not legalize same-sex marriages, it shows the support and is a step in the right direction. Not only will the Lambda group see your support, but so will those close to you or those you will meet who are fighting for the right to marry the partner they love so much. Hopefully one day we will realize the discrimination involved with denying same-sex marriages, and will eventually view it the same way we view mixed marriages. What I am asking you to do is simple, yet it will prove to be invaluable to those fighting for it. So please, take the two minutes it takes to fill it out, and show your support. Thank you.
(no author given). (1996). Legal Equality of Lesbian and Gay Individuals: The Right To Marry. American Civil Liberties Union Online. 27 paragraphs. Available: http://www.aclu.org/congress/gaywed.html [2000, May 22].
(no author given). (2000). The Marriage Resolution—sign-up form. Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples. 3 paragraphs. Available: http://www.buddybuddy.com/lldef-4.html. [2000, May 22].
(no author given). (2000). Fighting to Win and Keep the Freedom to Marry: The legal, Political, and Cultural Challenges Ahead. National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law Online. 234 paragraphs. Available: http://metalab.unc.edu/gaylaw/issue2/wolfson.html. [2000, May 22]
Wolfson, Evan. (1999). Winning and Keeping the Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples. Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples. 26 paragraphs. Available: http://www.eskimo.com/~demian/wolfson1.html. [2000, May 22].