When I started on social media, I intended to have fun putting myself and my writing out there for people. I never planned to be political. I also never planned to focus on my sexuality. I wanted to be known as a writer rather than a gay writer because the two things aren’t connected in my eyes; I don’t consider myself a gay writer—rather a writer who happens to be gay (just like Stephen King is a writer who happens to be straight). So much for both of those intentions…
“Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built.”
----Obergefell v. Hodges; Thomas, J., dissenting (93-94)
Innate: (1) existing from the time a person or animal is born; (2) existing as part of the basic nature of something
Inherent: belonging to the basic nature of something or someone
----Both definitions from www.merriam-webster.com.
Two weeks ago the Supreme Court decided the issue of same-sex marriage. Last week, George Takei expressed extreme dissatisfaction with Justice Thomas’ dissenting opinion. The more I engaged with people over what Justice Thomas wrote and what Mr. Takei said—at the views of those defending Mr. Takei and the implication of what they might actually think of me as a person—the angrier I became.
Justice Thomas’ dissent touches multiple issues, most of which I am not covering here. Eventually he comes to the matter of dignity, a topic raised by the majority opinion. It is the matter of dignity that became a flashpoint for Mr. Takei and thus became the central topic of discourse regarding Justice Thomas’ dissent. Where Justice Thomas mentions historical examples, I will only speak to my personal experience.
Until Friday, June 26, I didn’t have access to the privilege of marriage in all fifty states. I saw myself no less equal as a person for lacking access to marriage; I was simply treated unequally. I did not see myself as undignified for lacking access to marriage; my dignity simply wasn’t respected.
I’ve been fortunate to live in the time that I do and in the country (and part of the country) that I do. In some major industrialized countries homosexuals are criminalized and in some less industrialized countries they are killed; parts of this country are less tolerant than the San Francisco bay area in which I reside. Such treatment of people doesn’t upset me because I wish we were equal; such treatment upsets me because we are equal.
I don’t understand the argument being made against Justice Thomas’ point in this instance; are his opponents saying that we are not all born with the same human dignity and the same human equality but instead receive them only by the indulgence of a government or beneficent majority? Does that mean that until the morning of June 26 I was not equal as a person to the heterosexuals living in this country? It disgusts me to consider that for the first thirty-four and a half years of my life, I was less of a person than straight people, and I am only now equal and dignified thanks to the tolerant decree of the Supreme Court and the country’s heterosexual population.
Justice Thomas’ dissent offers plenty of points for people of good conscience to debate; this is not one of them. George Takei is an entertaining man who has used his celebrity to champion equal treatment of the gay community; I cannot believe that he meant a government was capable of taking a person’s dignity so much as treating them without respect to his dignity. With all the valid conversations regarding equal treatment of race, gender, and sexuality that we face, I am struck by how much more important it is to remember that no one confers equality and dignity; we all have them, they cannot be taken from us, and we are all entitled to have them respected.
I didn’t need a Supreme Court decision to be equal. I didn’t need straight people to become more comfortable with me to have dignity. I have always been equal and I have always had dignity. Friday’s decision just means that now I get treated that way.