Embracing Equality

I’m back in the Northwest after a very relaxing vacation to visit my family in Southern California. Our trip was fantastic! Paul and I had a great time visiting with our families, and even spent a night in Las Vegas with our parents (in case I haven’t mentioned it before, I looooove Vegas!).

While I was on vacation, something very important was happening in the country: the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for same-sex marriage. Since I avidly support the right of consenting adults to marry, regardless of gender, I was hopeful. Last fall I was among the majority in Washington state that voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and I felt strongly that while my state was making progress, the country as a whole was not. This week’s proceedings may pave the way to changing that.

I was surprised and excited to find that several of my Christian friends support the movement to legalize same-sex marriage and have spoken out for it on Facebook and other social media sites. I genuinely believe that most people recognize this for what it is: a civil rights issue. The trouble is, a few religious people get the issue of ‘marriage’ in the current context confused with the holy matrimony they seek in their churches.

What I don’t understand about those who don’t support gay marriage for religious reasons is that they ought to be able to see that we are talking about a government issue, not a religious one. No one is advocating to make an amendment to the Bible. We’re advocating to make an amendment to the United States Constitution. There are other things, such as divorce, that the Bible says you’re not supposed to do….yet they’re legal in our society. I believe this is because we enjoy freedom of religion (or freedom from it, in my case) and that just because one religious sect believes divorce is wrong, doesn’t mean it should be outlawed in our society.

How is gay marriage any different?

Now, I understand that part of the problem is that the word “marriage” is used in this country to represent two completely different sets of ideas. The one in question is the legal term marriage, the contract between two consenting adults that allows said consenting adults benefits under the law. The other idea of marriage, the one that you are tying yourself to another person in the eyes of your god, is an entirely different thing altogether and we are not discussing that one. If the church one was called ‘marriage’ and the legal was called ‘bibbidy-bobbidy-boo’ or ‘civil union’ or really ANY other title, I don’t think we’d even be having a debate here. But alas, we use one word to identify two completely different things, one of church and one of state, and this has led to, well, a mess.

Well, then what if we let gay people get married, but don’t CALL it marriage? I’ve heard this suggestion – give gay couples equal rights but call THEIR union a ‘bibbidy-bobbidy-boo’ or a ‘civil union’, and let the heterosexual couples be ‘married’. This to me is close, but not close enough. See, during the civil rights movements, black people were allowed to ride the bus – in the back. They were allowed to get drinks of water – from their own fountains. If you’re going to change the name from ‘marriage’ to ‘civil union’ (which I am not opposed to), then you need to change it for all couples, regardless of gender. A name change for all really would simplify things, in my opinion. You want a civil union, with all the legal rights and benefits? Go to the government. You want a marriage recognized by the god of your choice that affords you absolutely zero legal rights or benefits? Go to the church. You want both? Have at it.

I’ve heard the same-sex marriage opposed people declaring that we cannot “redefine marriage”. But I think that in society, we redefine things all the time. Back when the Founding Fathers wrote out the Constitution, black people were only considered two-thirds of a person (oh yeah, remember that?) and were property to be owned, bought, and sold. Women were barely more than property. Over the years, slowly women and minorities have fought their way to equal rights. If you had asked Ben Franklin what he would have thought of a female Supreme Court Justice hearing a gay marriage argument while the black President urged support of said gay marriage, he probably would’ve thought you were insane. And yet, that very thing has happened. Things change. People and ideas evolve. I’d like to think we get smarter as time passes.

I don’t go around telling people that I don’t think their religions are right. I embrace diversity and if you want to believe in something that’s different from what I believe in, good for you. But your religious beliefs have no place in our legal system, and this is not a religious issue. This is an issue of civil rights, of equality in our country, of discrimination based on sexual preference. We should not be basing legal rights on what one religion believes.

I hope we in the United States legalize and embrace same-sex marriage. To those who oppose it based on religion, fear not: you will survive this, as you have survived the legality of abortions and divorces. It will be all right. No plagues have struck Washington since the legalization of gay marriage. Nothing in your world will change. According to a pastor friend of mine, all human beings are sinners, and no one sin is greater or less than any other. Since it says in the Bible “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, and since you are not without sin, how about you worry about your own self and let the same-sex couples do what they wish and be happy.

Equality

 

Toxicity

“I think it’s important to get your surroundings as well as yourself into a positive state – meaning surround yourself with positive people, not the kind who are negative and jealous of everything you do.” – Heidi Klum

I recently wrote about my realization that I needed to take more time to actively appreciate all the great people and things in my life. An unexpected side effect of really taking a step back and looking at my life was that I saw not only the good, but the things that were bringing me down. For the first time, I began to see that some of the reason that I was unhappy and stressed out was that I allowed people to be in my life that were consistently negative and dragging me down.

I think we’ve all had someone like this in our lives:the person that claims to love you, yet drowns you in their negativity and endless demands. It can be a family member, a friend, or a significant other. I’m not talking about someone going through a rough time, or having a bad day – what I’m referring to are people that are always unhappy, or telling you what you’re doing wrong, or attempting to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do. The person who makes your head pound when their name shows up on your Caller ID.

I initially wondered whether I was just crazy for allowing someone that toxic to be in my life, but when I started talking to my family and close friends, many of them had tales of similar experiences to tell. I heard stories about people that only called when they wanted money, friends that disappeared off the face of the earth until they needed someone to drive them to a doctor’s appointment, and even a friend/business partner who resorted to bribes and finally insults to get her way.

So once you’ve identified that you’re dealing with a person who is toxic to you, how do you deal? One friend told me she simply changed her phone number…but she doesn’t recommend this approach. “Looking back, I shouldn’t have just changed my number. I should have dealt with it directly. I just couldn’t do it at that time,” she revealed to me. Advice I got was unanimous: if someone doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and isn’t really there for you – cut that person loose.

Cutting ties with someone who isn’t necessarily good for you is easy advice to give, and incredibly difficult advice to follow through with. After all, just because you’ve identified that someone is dragging you down, doesn’t mean it’s easy to turn your back on that person. More than likely, you’ve kept them around for a reason – usually, because in spite of bad behavior on their part, you still care about them.

A few weeks ago, I went through my contact lists on my phone and my Facebook page, and started deleting. Then I had a couple awkward conversations with people.  I didn’t do this because I was mad at anyone or to be hurtful. I did it because I needed to put myself first, to surround myself with positive people who had my back no matter what. I’m twenty-eight years old and I don’t have time to waste with people who make me feel bad about myself or who don’t support me in my endeavors.It’s cliche, but life’s too short to spend it being made unhappy by people…by giving people who make me unhappy enough importance in my life to let them make me feel that way.

It can be very difficult to identify and end a toxic friendship. But in my opinion it’s worth it to purge the negativity in order to move forward in a more positive and supportive environment. My ultimate goal is happiness, and I knew I couldn’t get there with people who weren’t there for me. Now that I don’t have to waste energy on someone who really doesn’t value me anyway, I can invest more time in the people that do.