Equality. What does it mean to you? It’s a term brought up more and more in a context of combined cultures, sexual orientations, and values, presented as something objectively defined above and beyond us. Yet in reality, what constitutes as equal differs greatly among between people and places, and existing disparities only seem to be expanding as society moves forward in all other walks of life. Laws are meant to be immutable truths that guarantee our rights as citizens, but are they really all that equal? How are we supposed to reach a state of equality when we can’t converge on what equality even means?
America has garnered a reputation as a country of equal opportunity, upholding an empty idea of the attainable “American Dream.” There are numerous examples of how fictitious these national stereotypes are, but perhaps the one receiving the most media attention these days, especially in light of the ongoing Republican candidacy race, is gay rights. Marriage is one of the biggest issues surrounding this topic, and Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker has taken a bold position in response to the prohibition of same-sex marriage in her state of Texas.
Parker, an openly gay African-American female (now that’s hitting a lot of discriminatory red flags), is refusing to marry straight couples until Texas allows gay marriages as well. Stating that continuing to perform marriages for straight people would be hypocritical and an unequal application of the law, Parker informs couples of her reasons for not wedding them and passes them off to another judge.
It would seem (hopefully) that prohibiting same-sex marriage is a clear example of inequality. But only a handful of states permit this and are met with waves of backlash every time, which have in some instances led to a reversal of laws. Proposition 8, anybody?
Canada, often hailed as a safe-ground for gay couples to travel to in order to wed, came under fire recently for an embarrassing oversight in same-sex rights which effectively negated all of the marriages it performed for international gay couples. Even Ellen Degeneres, one of the most recognized and well-loved gay media figures, received a huge amount of complaints for her recent partnership with J.C .Penny. Clearly, equality is still very much a subjective term for many.
I know that there are a number of basic rights that are not met in affluent and third-world countries at any given point, including things like access to food and shelter, things we truly need to survive. But there’s just something so disturbing to me about effectively denying someone the recognition of their love for another person. Laws are changed and revised all the time. They are not so much unquestionable rules but a reflection of a society’s values at a certain point in time—the Civil Rights Movement is an obvious reminder of such a sentiment. Let’s hope that society soon realizes that the time for change is once again at hand.
Codi Hauka is a fifth year International Relations student with a minor in History at the University of British Columbia, and a connoisseur of pies. She aspires to become a journalist, or, failing that, the heir to the Colbert Report. You can follow Codi’s work at The Magpie, a fake news blog she coordinates with an esteemed colleague and friend. The website is in the midst of a facelift, so please forgive its current 1990s level of visual appeal.