Realizing the Dream: Equality for All

Two students from Stratford STEM Magnet High School took top honors in the Tennessee Bar Association's 2013 Law Day Essay Contest.  Layne B. won 3rd place and will receive $100 from the Nashville Bar Association. Read his winning essay below.   

Equal Rights for Homosexuals


The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These words were written over two-hundred years ago, and even then, the people believed in the importance of equality. All men are created equal, and therefore there should be no discrimination. History shows the discrimination of African-Americans and how our country has evolved regarding racism, but now there is a form of discrimination that is becoming more prevalent. This form of discrimination is towards those of other sexual orientations, such as those who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Discrimination, under any circumstances, is morally wrong, and discrimination based on sexual orientation needs to be addressed. Along with the degrading discrimination based on sexual orientation, comes the subjection of verbal abuse and other hate crimes. A gay and lesbian anti-violence report states that 75% of hate crimes are committed by people under the age of 30, and one in three are under the age of 18. More than 80% of victims of violent hate crimes never report the incident, because many are afraid they will be ousted. Such horrific discrimination and violence can often result in low self-esteems, and in some cases, even suicide. Young lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are at a quadruple risk for suicide than people of the same age that are straight.

This tragedy has even become prevalent in families. One study showed that 26% of gay and lesbian teenagers who came out to their parents were kicked out of their homes, and 42% of homeless teens are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There is even discrimination in the workforce. A survey of two- hundred employers showed that 18% would fire someone who was gay or lesbian, and nearly 30% would refuse to hire anyone who was gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

A study by the University of Maryland revealed that lesbians earn an average of 14% less than straight women who share the equal age, education, skills, and residence. Results like these are a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was invoked by the United Nations General Assembly. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it states that “every person has the right to work, and to just and favorable conditions of work” and “everyone, without discrimination, has the right to equal pay”, which is exactly what employers are disregarding. They are taking away people’s right to work and be treated fairly, simply based on sexual orientation, which has nothing to do with how productive an employee may be.

Gays have rights just like every straight person in the country, and one right that every person is entitled to is the right to marry. The government is violating individual freedoms that are in the Declaration of Human Rights, which gives everyone the right to privacy and to found a family, without any interference based on race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. The U.S government recognizes same sex couples and gives them a right to civil unions, but in most cases, not marriage. The federal government accounts over 1,700 benefits with couples who are married, not couples in civil unions.

Some of these benefits include spousal benefits, social security survivor benefits, and unpaid leave to care for an ill spouse. Also, the government has restrictions on whether or not gay couples can adopt children. In the U.S, it’s legal for single gay people to adopt a child; but for gay couples it is illegal to adopt children. There is no excuse for this discrimination from the government; there is no threat to society if gay couples marry, and there is no threat to children, should gay couples be allowed to adopt. Discrimination via the government is to be expected, yet still unjust; but one source of discrimination is appalling. The gay and lesbian society is suffering discrimination from the churches in the country. The religious communities often believe that being gay is “morally wrong”, and refuse to allow gays in their churches and services. Catholicism and other religions that worship through the Bible often say, that in the Bible it says that gays will go to Hell.

It is wrong to discriminate this way, because not everyone worships through the Bible. In the United States, there are many different beliefs, and ways of life, and people should not be discriminated against simply based on their sexual orientation, just because the Bible, the church, or other religious material that states that being gay is wrong or unnatural. Every human is given the right to his or her opinion and is given the freedom of expression, so long as to not impose upon others’ rights. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual poses no threat against anyone else’s personal rights or freedoms.

With all of the facts presented about the seriousness of discrimination of gays in today’s society, why would anyone want to choose to be gay and therefore subject themselves to the tragedy of discrimination? Being gay is not a choice; 28% of teenagers who are gay are forced to drop out of school. The harassment from the other students, the fear of being ousted, and the pressures to conform in society often becomes too much. Even 85% of teachers oppose and refuse to address these types of issues in their schools, or to integrate any type of lesbian, gay or bisexual theme into the curriculum or discussions.

A common misconception is that asking for Gay Rights laws is asking for special privileges towards the gay community. However, Gay Rights laws do not give the gay community any special privileges, but simply the same basic rights of equality that every straight person is given. The straight community has already been given theses rights for centuries, but these rights have been taken away consistently from the gay community and it is time for a change to occur. All men are created equal, and should be given equal rights as a consequence.