Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Activism: I am an Ally (Talking Point 12)

Although I have always believed myself to be somewhat of an ally to others, this class has really solidified that concept for me.  I remember back in grade school, around 6th or 7th grade, my class was asked to write a persuasive paper on any topic we wanted, and most kids chose topics like why they should get to stay up an hour later or why they shouldn't have to do homework.  What was my persuasive paper topic?  Why should gay marriage be legalized in the United States.  Even at an early age I felt like everybody should be treated the same no matter what.  My teacher, Mrs. Myers, took me aside when she found out what I wanted to do and tried to talk me into another topic but I was determined and she explained to me that it was going to be a challenge.  And it was.  But it was worth it...  I ended up writing this paper my Freshman year at RIC for writing 100 on same-sex marriage:

Noelle Patenaude

Professor Collins

Writing 100-08

3 December 2009

Gay Marriage:
Saying, “I do” to same-sex marriages

What would you say if you were denied the right to marry the person you fell in love with?  Well for at least ten percent of Americans across the United States this is a very real problem.  These people are being denied their right to marry because they are “different”, “unusual”, or “not the same” as those around them.  They are being denied their right to marry because they are gay.  Gay marriage should be accepted as legal unions nationally because everyone has the right to legitimize their relationships.  It gives same sex couples the legal rights they deserve, and it would increase tolerance towards gays in American society.
What does it mean to be gay?  According to MedicineNet.com the definition of gay or homosexual states that being gay is when someone is attracted to a person of the same sex.  It is more commonly referred to as being lesbian for females, and queer or homosexual for males. 
Many people who are against homosexual marriages argue that same-sex marriages would weaken the traditional definition and respect for marriage.  However, no matter what gender orientation an individual has, they have the right to legitimize their relationship and become a married couple.  The Google definition of marriage supports this by declaring that the state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life (or until divorce); "a long and happy marriage"; and "God bless this union."  Shouldn’t gay couples have the right to legitimize their love for each other and be married? 
When these homosexual couples are together and not married, America’s society usually views them as just being short-term relationships.  To many people, it is seen as nothing more than a common high school relationship or “fling,” even though they could be living together, have a family together, and plan to be together for the rest of their lives.  If gay couples were allowed to marry these couples would be able to move beyond being viewed in short-term relationship and move to something more acceptable in American culture.  They would become something real and legitimate in the eyes of other Americans.  The couples would be able to move to a committed lifetime partner relationship in today’s society.
Not only are the gay couples being denied marriage but also they are being denied all the same legal rights that go along with marriage, which all heterosexual married couples have.  All in all gay couples that are not married do not have the same legal rights as a heterosexual married couple.  Unmarried gay couples do not have the same rights pertaining to property, visitations and major decision making in hospitals, taxes, money and financial issues, last will and testimonies, and health and medical care. One extreme case where unmarried gay couple’s rights were taken away happened on November 11th of this year, Governor Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island, vetoed gay couples the vital legal right to bury their partner.  From the Providence Journal: An opponent of same-sex marriage, Governor Carcieri has vetoed bill that would have added "domestic partners'' to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other. In his veto message, Republican Carcieri said, "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue."
Same-sex couples are not only being denied their marital rights but their own natural rights as U.S. citizens are also being violated.  They are being denied the right to marry whom they love.  Their right to the separation of church and state is also being infringed upon.  According to balancedpolitics.org the separation of church and state sets apart one’s own values of religion and the values of the government.  Some religions, including Islamic Sects and Christianity see homosexuality as unacceptable.
Some people who are against gay marriage because it is against their religion believe that homosexuality is a sin, and according to the bible and many religions, it is.  However over the years many situations that were once seen as sins in earlier years, have become a decent and regular part of America’s society today.  When before people who were different because of race, religion, ethnicity, pre-marital sex, and parental status were once utterly frowned upon, they are now seen as normal everyday occurrences.  We are now seeing interracial marriages, interethnic marriages, and many people having sex before marriage, and single parents by choice.
If every state in the United States were to allow same-sex marriage the tolerance towards these couples in society would be increased. One extreme example of the discrimination of homosexuals occurred in 2000.  The headline, “A 17-year-old northwestern Pennsylvania boy is suing a school district for failing to intervene with anti-gay harassment” which was said to have driven him to try to commit suicide. If same-sex marriages were legalized nationally, it would also lower the harassment and public humiliation that is normally seen towards these same-sex couples.  
As of 2009, up to six states have legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, Rhode Island has become an island of inequality surrounded by states that treat their gay and lesbian citizens with dignity and respect by affording them an equal right to marry.  Marriage is a significant social status and provides security that gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders deserve to have as human beings.
Having same-sex marriage illegal in the United States, goes against the words of our founding fathers.  The denial is in direct disobedience with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Declaration of Independence, the two documents that built and were foundations for our country.  When the Declaration was written, those men wanted our nation to not only follow but also live by the words they had written.  They foresaw a future where “all men are created equal” as well as being able to have the “pursuit of happiness”, whether that is being with a partner of the same sex or a different one.  They did not envision a country where our government does not allow people to marry and be happy in a lifelong partnership together just because they were different than those around them.  It counters the very words, “the land of the free,” as well as “with liberty and justice for all,” which as a nation we have striven to stand behind. 
Think back to your own wedding, or being a young child and envisioning your wedding day.  The bride would look beautiful in a stunning white gown while her soon to be husband in his handsome new tux.  Would it make the special day any less magical if it were two brides or two grooms?  Would they be any less in love?  So why does our government have the right to deny them the right to express their relationship and love for one another?  Shouldn’t they have the right to prove to the world they are truly committed to one another?

I have always felt like people shouldn't have to hide who they are and that is one of the reasons who I am studying to be a social worker.  

It's stories like this that are just horrifying.  I wonder now, if this boy had an ally, just one friend to stand up with him, would he still be here?  


  1. Hey, Noelle. Nice post! It's great that you were an ally to the LGBT community from such a young age. Being a queer person, I wish I could say I was the same... but truth be told, I was essentially a homophobe around 7th and 8th grade, and it took some ignorant and close-minded comments fueled by my parents' "traditional" mind-sets before friends of mine cut me off and told me where I was wrong. One friend in particular had an aunt who was gay and she advocated strongly for her. In time I was able to separate myself from my parents' views and open up to tolerance. Now, I'd like to devote my life to public activism and social justice. That video was heart-wrenching. Tyler's father had a point, that if no one makes a change now, in 10 years someone will be sitting in his place talking about the same thing. I hate to say this, but, I expect that's what will happen. Not enough people are allies. Not enough people care, because they're so self-absorbed, and filled with ideologies from the media they aren't even aware of. It's pathetic, really. The fact that this movie is rated R is a perfect example of censorship and oppression. Why can't it be rated PG13 so that the kids who so desperately need to watch this can? And what about the school, that in blissful ignorance watched this boy get bullied, before and after a death which they'd indirectly caused by lack of action? Will they be punished? The world we live in is terribly corrupt.

  2. Hi Noelle,
    I don't know why but I was so amazed and found myself glazing at your fish tank, anyways I read your post, that's a good paper you wrote. I liked your Ellen post too, I love watching that show. This is sad that its my last post for this class I'm glad I met you, and I'll probably see you a Mrs.T's the best breakfast place everrrr :))