What did you ask for on your 14th birthday? New clothes? The latest hit CD? Money? One Maryland girl, identified as Sarah, has a rather unusual birthday request. She wants her state legislature to deny equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Sarah, who is home schooled, told the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week that it “would be the best birthday present ever if you would vote ‘no’ on gay marriage.”
The teen goes on to perpetuate long-disproved myths about LGBT families. “I really feel bad for kids who have two parents of the same gender,” she tells the Committee.
Yet numerous studies have shown that children raised by same-sex parents do just as well, if not better, than peers raised by opposite-sex parents. Evidence also suggests that child abuse is less likely to occur in lesbian families as compared to the general population.
Sarah also falls back on the old “definition” talking point – that society will somehow fall apart if the word “marriage” is expanded to include same-sex unions – and the idea that being gay is a frivolous lifestyle decision.
“People have the choice to be gay,” Sarah says. “But I don’t want to be affected by their choice.”
Last month, a teen girl named Taylor appeared in a video calling for a boycott of Girl Scout Cookies after it was announced that the Girl Scouts of America allow transgender girls to join their troops. The video has since been removed, but like Sarah’s testimony, Taylor seemed to rely on erroneous conceptions about LGBT people as well as conservative religious bias.
It’s easy to speculate that these young people have been indoctrinated by their parents or other elders. In Sarah’s case, however, that’s somewhat beside the point. The real question is why the Maryland Legislature considers biased personal testimony – from anyone, not just a teenager – as evidence against a civil rights issue like gay marriage. If we were debating segregation, would it be right to consider the comfort zone of a professed racist?
The truth is that Sarah won’t be affected if gay marriage passes in Maryland, or anywhere else. Sarah and her family can still believe that being gay is wrong. They can continue to go a church that believes the same. They can continue to homeschool their children. No one will force them to attend a gay wedding. If Sarah grows up and marries a man someday, gay marriage won’t invalidate their union or force them to divorce.
But millions of Americans will be affected if Sarah gets her birthday wish. Their lives are being affected right now by people who share Sarah’s views. Gay and lesbian couples are being strained every day – financially and emotionally – because they don’t have the same rights and protections that the government grants to heterosexuals. Families are being torn apart. Children who need loving homes are still waiting.
The fight for marriage equality isn’t about changing a word, Sarah. It’s about giving LGBT families the same opportunities and freedoms that your family has had. It’s about fairness.
My own birthday is coming up in a few weeks and now I know what I want. Instead of gifts, I’ll be asking my friends and family to make a donation to a group fighting for LGBT equality. I think it would be the best birthday present ever if we voted “yes” on gay marriage.
Image Credit: Jessica Diamond (Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike License)