I’ve been hoping this would happen for well over a decade. As I watched so many people put so much of their time and their effort and their heart into the quest for same-sex marriage rights, I wondered when some of those same people would realize what their triumphs would not accomplish. No matter how sweeping the victories ultimately are in the movement to legalize of same-sex marriage, people who do not marry – including people of all sexual orientations – are left out. Whether they are people who would like to marry but haven’t found the right person, or people who proudly choose to be single, they remain second class citizens, excluded from the legal benefits and protections, and social status (misplaced, in my opinion) that comes from being officially married.
In what I hope will be one of many voices, a long-time advocate for marriage equality is speaking up. In the Boston Globe, James Lopata published an article titled, “Marriage equality is great. Now how about equality for singles?”
After pointing out the huge number of unmarried Americans (105 million, more than 44 percent of all adults if you start counting at age 18), then enumerating some of the significant ways in which single people are targets of singlism, including discrimination that is built right into federal laws, Lopata, who has never married, says this:
I find that I have spent much of my adult life trying to force myself into a model of relationship that doesn’t appear to fit me. Nor does it appear to fit nearly half of adult America. As an editor in the LGBT press for more than 10 years, I’ve spilled a lot of ink helping to secure equal marriage rights. Now I ask others to join me in a new project. Or rather, an old one.
Why an old one? Because in the history of LGBT activism, before the mid-1980s, marriage equality was not a goal. Lopata likes a statement he found in a flier from the 1970s: “ . . . what gay men and women, as well as others, should demand is freedom from being forced to mold their lives after a rigid, and strictly historical, family structure.”
He then concludes with an invitation that I hope is widely accepted:
I invite all of us — gay, straight, married, polyamorous, and single — to not forget this vision of equality. Let’s ensure that all forms of human relations are affirmed and recognized. That no one is denied access to his closest and dearest. That no one is considered second-class. Not one single person.
Equality graphic available from Shutterstock