Lisa Pond was on vacation in Florida with her spouse and her three children, when she collapsed from a brain aneurysm. Upon arriving at the trauma center that Pond had been rushed to, her spouse and children were informed that she had no hope of recovery and that she was declining fast. Despite asking, begging, and pleading beyond tears, Pond’s spouse and children were not permitted to see her as she lay dying and were not allowed to say goodbye to her. That night, Ms. Pond died alone. The reason? Her spouse was a woman. Lisa Pond was gay, and Florida doesn’t recognize gay marriages.
Marriage has always been extolled as a cinderblock of our society, and it is. It remains the best way to provide a good, loving home for children through commitment, sacrifice and love. Heterosexuals take it for granted, but being married also connects us to our spouse with 1,138 Federal rights and laws: from the tax breaks we get by being able to select “married” on our tax forms, to the fact that, in the event that I am incapacitated, my spouse, not my parents, retains legal custody over me to make end of life decisions. For any loving couple, many of these laws contain basic rights that are fundamental to being able to live an everyday normal life.
As a state with marriage equality, New York has led the way in ensuring that gays and lesbians are treated equally. Laws like the Defense of Marriage Act, however, which nullifies the New York’s gay marriage law at a federal level and Proposition 8, California’s act of segregation that blocks marriage but allows “separate but equal” civil unions, continue to keep marriage out of reach for many Americans. As the Supreme Court hears arguments against these laws, the Justices should remember that America was founded based on the premise that all are created equal, and have the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Some Americans still oppose marriage equality, fearful that its legalization will hurt society. Opponents think that gay marriage is a threat to children, perennially stating that “every child deserves a mother and a father.” This is based on the premise that gay parents, simply because they are gay, cannot provide the same level of parenting that a mother and father can.
This widely shared prejudice is untrue. Numerous studies have shown gay parents to be as effective as straight parents, including one from the American Psychological Association. It concluded that the well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation: the gender of the parents does not matter, but the amount of love and parental involvement that they provid to their children does. Growing up in Sayville, I had the privilege of knowing several classmates who were raised by gay parents. They were no less kind, intelligent or morally rooted than I.
Opponents of gay marriage claim that their views are based around what they feel is the best for children, but in the wake of significant evidence to the contrary, their opposition looks clearer for what it truly is: a bias against gays and lesbians.
We now know, thanks to recent scientific studies around genetic epi-marks, that being gay isn’t the product of choice or upbringing, but is genetic: gays and lesbians are indeed “born this way.” Gay and lesbian people simply wish to stand with the person that they love, vowing to stay with that person and to protect that person until death. The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society. Now is the time to treat all families equally. Now is the time to allow gay marriage.
Jonas Stankovich graduated from Sayville High School in 2006. He is a Master of Public Administration student at CUNY Baruch College.