The news of Sally Ride passing was something that hit me harder than I expected and took me by surprise. It had been a while since I had heard about her.
As a NASA booster and a fan of the space shuttle program since it began, Ride was a hero of mine. (According to Ride’s sister she “hated” labels of every kind, including the word hero.)
Described as a “private” person, Ride kept details about her pancreatic cancer from the public eye. She also chose not to reveal that she was gay. She lived the last 27 years of her life in a same-sex relationship.
Ride is often described as “the first American woman in space.” (A Russian woman named Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space way back in June 1963.) Twenty years later Ride did it aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. (The same shuttle that claimed the lives of seven astronauts just three years later.)
Ride also had a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and took that brain into space, logging 14 days, 7 hours and 46 minutes of flight time away from the Earth.
Sadly, Sally Ride was prohibited in this country from marrying the person of her choice. And because she was in a same-sex relationship, Ride’s partner of 27 years is not entitled to death benefits or Social Security payments.
A story on Time.com says the “majority” of Americans support the concept of same-sex marriage yet identified 1,138 federal benefits that are denied due to DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act.
Side note: 1,138? Weird. That’s also found in the title of a movie called THX-1138 that depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including sexual desire. How does George Lucas do it? Spooky. Coincidence? Methinks not.
We live in the United States of America. The home of the free. We have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That right should extend to marrying the person of your choice.
But here in the year 2012, Americans are still denied the right to love and marry the person of their choice regardless of gender. That’s a crushing blow to the concept of “freedom” and the American dream. The right to love the person of your own choice without the spectre of discrimination should be an absolute.
Barack Obama supports the idea of gay marriage. This is generally expressed as “marriage equality” and “equal treatment under the law” for same-sex couples. Mitt Romney has never wavered in his opposition to same-sex marriage. His position is that states should decide what, if any, certain legal benefits will be offered to same-sex couples.
The word discriminate itself means to perceive a difference. Or to act based on those differences, applying varying rights, privileges and treatment on the basis of such differences. In the case of innate traits, we generally find this offensive. Treat someone differently (usually worse) based on such things as the color of their skin, gender, or religious beliefs? Most of us find the idea reprehensible.
Sexual orientation is different. Feed that into the equation and suddenly some of the same people who find discrimination repugnant suddenly seem to feel that it is acceptable.
Some might argue that marriage between a man and a woman is “traditional.” I would rebut with the fact that just because something is traditional does not make it the right and correct thing to do. There have been many “traditions” in the history of human beings that were dead wrong.
I believe that government should only recognize civil unions (for lack of a better phrase). This would function like what most of us think about as “marriage.” It would be legally binding on things like those 1,138 benefits. In addition to civil unions, there would also be “marriage.” This would be solely a religious concept. Much like religious baptisms confer no legal benefits or status, neither would marriage. Religious beliefs are a right and this would maintain the rights of those who wish to do things like be “married before God.”
But the two concepts of legally recognized civil unions and religious-based marriages should never meet.
I’m sad that the person my hero chose to love has been denied some of the rights and privileges that the rest of us take for granted due merely to our sexual orientation. I hope that we will some day fix this wrong.