Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I Care about New York’s Marriage Equality Act (And So Should You)

- By Keith Hosey -

On Sunday July 24th New York joined the elite few states that recognize GLBT people as human beings and full citizens by legalizing and legitimizing same-sex marriage (while my state went as far as passing a law banning same-sex marriage a couple years ago). Congratulations to the GLBT community for this win, it’s fantastic and I’m happy for all the couples that have gotten married so far.

But I’m straight and a disability rights activist, why should I care about GLBT rights (other than the fact that I have numerous friends who happen to be gay)? Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised, to value people as people. I carry a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in my wallet with the quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I believe in civil rights and equality for all people. I can’t talk about disability rights without acknowledging the rights of everyone.

Someone once told me that I only care about disability rights because I work for the Center. That makes me smile and laugh. Sometimes I wish it was a nine-to-five belief. I believe that every person, no matter their background, genetic markers, birthrights, origins, etc. deserves to have the respect of being treated as a human being. I don’t understand discrimination, possibly because I’ve personally experienced it. I don’t think that anyone should have to endure discrimination in a free society, that we should all be afforded due respect as people.

I don’t understand people who can fight so fervently for their personal social justice cause and not care about the other groups. I’ve known people who steam at the use of the word “fag” then ask me why it matters if they use “retard”... It’s just a word after all, they say. I believe that we’re all tied together in this fight for equality. How an African-American is treated in a business has an effect on the disability or GLBT community -- and vice versa. The “glass ceiling” in women’s pay equality is as frustrating to me as an inaccessible business. Are my civil rights any less important than yours? Are yours less than mine? I personally don’t think anyone else’s value is less important than mine. Because we’re all only people after all… and isn’t that what civil rights are all about?

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