I was raised in the 50’s in Southern California. I am a baby boomer. My moral and political belief system was shaped during the activist’s movements of the 50’s and 60’s. I immigrated to the United States at age five with my parents. I grew up listening to rock ‘n roll, reading The Saturday Evening Post and Life magazine, and watching world events on a nineteen-inch diagonal black and white screen. My America was hopeful, the “land of opportunity,” a true democracy.
My family went on a vacation once to Catalina Island, “22 miles across the sea.” My brother, Ross, thought we had gone abroad. We didn’t travel far from home, but the world came to us in the images delivered on television and in print. The only memory I have of a seventh grade report on Roosevelt’s four freedoms is a picture of a drinking fountain for “coloreds” that I clipped from Life magazine. I don’t remember which freedom I was illustrating, but the memory of the drinking fountain is vivid. Television images brought the world to my California living room. I remember watching the fire hoses and German shepherds turned on peaceful demonstrators. I remember the nightly reports on the freedom riders and I remember seeing George Wallace try to stop desegregation. I also remember the sense of injustice I felt and the admiration for those who were fighting that injustice. I wondered if I would have had that courage.
I was raised a liberal with a sense of responsibility for the rights of others. But, it was easy to be a “bleeding heart” when my own world didn’t change. As I matured my understanding of equity issues did too. I came to the recognition that I benefited just by being a member of the dominant culture, even if I didn’t consciously or actively discriminate. I didn’t have to; the system was set up for me.
Several years ago I attended a conference in Washington, D.C. and I visited the American History Museum. I rounded a corner and saw the Woolworth’s lunch counter. I knew immediately what it was. It was meaningful to me because I knew its history. I grew up admiring the people who risked their personal safety and position to change an unjust system.
Much has changed since my youth, but the struggle for equality continues. That’s why the issue of marriage equity is important to me. It’s a civil rights issue. Exclusion from marriage deprives same sex couples of not only the legal and economic protections of marriage, but also the intangible social benefits of marriage.
This summer my husband and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. I just don’t see how my marriage is threatened by same-sex marriage. That Ellen and Portia got married did not devalue my marriage. What’s important is that each of us has the right to be who we are, to make the choices that are right for us, and not be judged or discriminated against. That’s equity…that’s what I learned growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Why are we still fighting this battle?
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