I have always joked that perhaps I was never meant to be born an American; that my sense of humour was a little bit too dry and sarcastic; that I have always enjoyed a nice cup of tea a bit more than the average American. I have not, however, usually found myself ashamed of being an American. And then came the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November 2016.
On that day We, The People, of the United States elected Donald Trump as President. I cast my vote, not for Trump, but even so in the end Trump won. Hillary Clinton had the popular vote, but not the necessary 270 votes in the Electoral College. So, it is what it is, and I am not writing to talk about how the Trump campaign succeeded or how the Clinton campaign failed, or even how third-party candidates are barely spoken about.
What shames me, what leaves me feeling embarrassed to be an American right now is that, although technically Clinton won the popular vote, and therefore that means that a majority of Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, it was a very narrow margin with which she won that popular vote. And that means, nearly half of my fellow Americans supported a racist. A bigot. A misogynist.
I had thought that it couldn’t possibly be quite so many as all that. Surely, not as many of half of us could find enough political worthiness in Donald Trump to excuse his shortcomings as a person. And yet, half of us did.
I am not saying that Clinton is a shining example of all that a human being should be. Hell, at one point prior to the results of the Election, I quipped that I had cast my vote for Cthulhu, because why should I vote for a lesser evil, after all? But I had thought that a lot more of us were better than this. Better than to cast our votes for someone who would say that he could shoot someone and it wouldn’t cost him voters. Better than to cast our votes for someone who would speak so shamefully of women, and excuse it as “locker-room talk”. Better than to cast our votes for Donald Trump. Clearly, I was wrong because just near half of us did exactly that.
America, I really hope you can get your shit together by 2020, because honestly, I am ashamed of you.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage throughout the country as of 26 June 2015 in a five-to-four vote.
Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had these words to say:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
By the time that I sat down at my computer yesterday, the news was everywhere. People were celebrating in streets, and some were ready to tie the knot in states that had been holding out against same-sex marriage. In my own home state, one of the thirteen that were still holding out against same-sex marriage, the first marriage licenses for same-sex couples were issued immediately following the decision.
I have tried, despite my strong feelings, to listen to both sides of the debate. I have tried to understand why and how any person, or persons, could be affected in any way, by who other people choose to marry. I have heard those who say “Well, for example, my health insurance costs may rise because all of a sudden more people are eligible for coverage”. (As in benefits for spouses). Are you kidding me?
What I have not been able to work out is how any of the opposition to same-sex marriage is based on anything other than a religious or spiritual belief. To deny someone the same rights, liberties, and privileges as you, based on a religious or spiritual belief is, in my opinion, wrong. If you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman only, you are entitled to that belief – what you are not entitled to do is insist that everyone else believe it, or live their lives according to that belief. Not everyone believes as you do, and that is their right.
I have heard the arguments that people (as in members of the clergy) may find themselves “forced” to participate in weddings that they do not agree with or condone. I have heard the arguments regarding churches and other religious facilities being required to allow same-sex marriages to take place within their confines. I do not think that the two things are inextricably linked. As an individual, I believe that you have the right to refuse to provide a service you are uncomfortable with providing, whether you are clergy, a baker, a wedding planner, or what have you. (Let’s not be idiots about this, folks, honestly!)
I also believe that there are not that many individuals out there who would even want those services provided by someone they knew was not wholly at ease with the circumstances. Even if that were not the case, though, I believe that no court would force a person to participate in a wedding that they did not support.
Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry is not synonymous with stripping away the rights of the religious, or those that don’t agree with it, for whatever reason.
As someone recently engaged I can only imagine the heartbreak if I had said yes, but then been denied the right to follow through.