A word so easy to understand, and yet, so difficult to achieve in practice.
Today, the New York legislature voted to legalize gay marriage, a big victory in the road to marriage equality. A small victory on the road to achieving equality for all.
In 1776, the United States declared independence from Great Britain. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The “truths” he refers to are our natural and legal rights, our human rights (defined as “basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language”).
Maybe he should have written, “all those in the human race are created equal.” Maybe he shouldn’t have left so much up to interpretation. Maybe, just maybe, we would be living in a different world today.
That was 1776.
In the last 235 years of American history when was there ever a period where we WEREN’T fighting for equality?
- In 1864, we added the 13th Amendment to the Bill of Rights and abolished slavery.
- In 1868, we added the 14th Amendment and declared every “man” born in the United States a citizen.
- In 1870, we added the 15th Amendment to extend voting rights to all “citizens.” One man = one vote.
- In 1920, 144 years after Thomas Jefferson wrote those infamous words, we added the 19th Amendment to the Bill of Rights, allowing women the right to vote.
- In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for blacks and whites were inherently unequal (Brown vs. Board of Education)
- In 1967, the Supreme Court overturned the “Racial Integrity Act”, legalizing marriage for interracial couples.
One day, I would like to get married. And one day, I would like to have children. I don’t ever want to have that difficult conversation with my children on why, because of some inherent difference, they don’t have the same rights or opportunities as other children. I don’t want them to grow up in that kind of a world.
Will there ever be a day where we won’t need to fight for quality anymore?