When trade smiths, farmers, teachers and clergy sailed west on boats from Europe with their families in the early 1600s, they sought to leave behind oppression in favor of opportunity and freedom. A century and a half later this vision was recorded in a document, The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, perhaps best epitomized by the idea captured in the phrase "all men are created equal". Though imperfectly gender specific, it was the first time in the history of humanity that had ever been declared by a governing body. On November 4th of this year, we saw our founders' vision affirmed in the first election of an African American to the highest office of the land, but on the same day, that founding vision fell short in the passage of a law in California to prohibit marriage between loving consenting adults of the same sex.
I am gay, but at 27, marriage is not necessarily the first thing on my mind as I write this. Here is what is on my mind: discriminating between heterosexuals and homosexuals in the law–be it in opportunities for marriage, military service, or through the intentional omission of protections in employment, housing and education–creates a stigma that carries over to the workplace and our public schools, sometimes with devastating consequences.
On February 13th of this year, a 15 year old in Ventura County California, Lawrence King, was shot twice in the head as he sat in his middle school classroom. He was killed by a 14 year old male classmate. According to students in a Newsweek article, he had recently asked that same male classmate to be his valentine.
This is a problem that affects everyone: when a significant percent of the population faces artificial hurdles in achieving their full potential to contribute to society, it works to hold this country back at a time when it faces increasing global competition and challenges to its leadership status.