Voting for gay rights in 2008 (Forum)

Jeremy Gordon

On the first day of the school year, one of my closest friends from home died unexpectedly in his sleep. I found out that night after returning to a dorm filled with people partying and celebrating the return to Northwestern. It was a pretty crappy way to kick off the year.

In addition to being one of the best people I’ve ever known, my friend was also gay. During one of the last times I saw him last summer, we started talking about politics and briefly discussed the presidential candidates we liked so far, what issues were key to us, who would win in a fight, etc. He lamented that none of the frontrunners had taken a positive stance on marriage for gay and lesbian couples, and that he didn’t think this would change. Our conversation helped me realize that the matter of gay marriage and more broadly, gay rights, is one of the most subtly important issues in the upcoming presidential race.

It’s impossible for me to vote for a candidate who is against gay marriage. As I’m not gay, the issue doesn’t affect me directly, but a move to outlaw gay marriage would be a gross violation of human rights. The banning of gay marriage is the denial of rights to a group of American citizens. Essentially, it is the ghettoization of gay Americans, an attempt to reduce them to second-class citizens.

I remember being disgusted when Bush endorsed a constitutional ban of gay marriage in 2004, and his opinion is far from unique. I shudder upon reading that Mike Huckabee said in 1992 that he regarded homosexuality as an “aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle,” or when Mitt Romney leaps to dismiss allegations that he supports gay marriage, in order to prove he’s a real Republican.

It makes me equally sad when Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are intentionally ambiguous about their feelings on the matter, because they don’t want to risk saying the wrong (or right) thing and offend their potential voters. In 2007, Clinton was asked point-blank by a reporter whether or not she found homosexuality immoral and replied, “Well, I’m going to leave that to others to conclude.” How can the potential leader of the free world be so non-committal about human rights?

It shouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican issue. It shouldn’t be about words that may or may not have been communicated by a higher power thousands of years ago. It should be a question of: Can you look at an American just like you, and say to him, “I don’t recognize your rights as an equal citizen,” just because of who he or she chooses to love? It should be whether or not we, as college students, can endorse a candidate looking to deny the indefensible happiness of a group of citizens too large to ignore.

I’d like to think that had my friend lived, he would have been free to marry whomever he wanted. All I can do to honor his memory is to support a candidate who is ready to move past the prejudices of the past and promote equality, not hatred.

Medill sophomore Jeremy Gordon can be reached at [email protected]