Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

by Mary Griggs

It is Valentine’s Day, a modern holiday that many people believe was created by the sugar and greeting card industry to support heteronormative pair bonding. The LGBT community should not feel excluded from this day of saccharine sentimentality; instead we should learn the history behind this celebration.

According to one legend, in 269, the Roman Emperor Claudius II prohibited marriage for young men, declaring that bachelors made better soldiers. Ignoring the ruling, Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies. As a result, he was arrested and beaten. When Valentine refused to pledge that he would obey the Emperor’s decree, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate.

All those who support marriage equality should take heart at his martyrdom. Here is a man that knew the institution of marriage is important to society. He believed that performing marriages for loving couples was the right thing to do.

Laws against same-sex marriage are just legalized homophobia. Loving adult couples who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and take on the required responsibilities deserve the same legal rights, benefits and respect that marriage bestows. Committed couples should not be denied the security and legal protections of marriage. It is flat out wrong to make it harder for committed couples to take care of and be responsible for each other.

In the past five decades the LGBT equal rights movement has made enormous advances in law and public opinion. We have made these gains because we fought for them and because key allies have joined us: family members, neighbors, coworkers, religious leaders, judges, politicians and business executives.

We have come far together but many challenges remain. Thirty states ban the legal recognition of same sex couples and the federal government deprives same sex couples of the 1,138 federal protections and responsibilities that come with marriage because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).

This month has seen our nation move ever closer to the ideals of equality and fairness enshrined in the Constitution. On February 8th, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. Yesterday, February 13th, Governor Christine Gregoire signed Washington State’s marriage equality bill into law, making Washington one of seven states, plus the District of Columbia, that extends the privileges, benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

In appreciation of the saint for whom this day is named and in the hopes that someday marriage equality will be the law of the land, I want to wish everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day!

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