Each generation is defined by its monumental occasions. For ours, last Friday was undoubtedly one of those days. The Supreme Court ruling — in years to come — will stand as a pivotal moment of progress that was long anticipated and was widely celebrated by those close to me.
Delayed for far too long, marriage equality was a necessary cultural shift that didn’t come quietly — nor should it have. Within a mere matter of hours after the decision was first announced — and certainly by the next day — the divisive nature of the issue was splayed on computer screens across the country. Amidst a stream of rainbow-tinted profile pictures, news articles and jubilant announcements, there were only a few posts on my personal newsfeed that didn’t share the same excitement. While a select number of posts prompted some lengthy debates, the few that argued a differing set of beliefs tried to do so respectfully.
However, during a phone a conversation a few days later, I learned that my newsfeed had probably been slightly more colorful and more enthusiastic than those belonging to members of my family or to some of my friends in other parts of the country. Not yet realizing that I probably had been encapsulated in a progressive, millennial media bubble, I grew increasingly aggravated and passionate as I was told some of the opposing points raised against the decision. A family member — detecting my not-so-subtle annoyance — told me important words to remember whenever I was talking about this particular case. They parted the conversation with the phrase: “Let people be people.”
“Let people be people?” I was so confused. What else would they even be?
This phrase – although I still didn’t get it— kept resurfacing in my mind and appearing on the page as I scrawled down scrambled words, passages and column ideas. The more I pondered the seemingly vague and obvious statement, the more applicable it seemed.
People disagree. People argue. People hold a varying degree of beliefs that will inevitably clash, but even so, the dissonance between conflicting ideologies needs to be addressed without judging, or denouncing, the other person or endangering their rights. Ideally, this was probably the intended meaning of the message when I first received it, but I delved a bit further.
In a way, the statement — albeit a rudimentary one — summarizes the Supreme Court ruling as whole. As humans, we all seek to love, to find contentment and to enjoy the environment and the people we surround ourselves with.The goal of the Court ruling was to let people be themselves and love freely without discrimination. The success of Friday’s milestone demonstrates humanity’s capability to persevere and devote itself to a cause.
While the government may have guaranteed individuals this right, the next action needs to involve ensuring the security and comfort they rightfully deserve as they do so. Despite the widespread acceptance and support exhibited for the goals of the LGBTQ community, expressing one’s identity fully isn’t done without precautions. Members of the LGBTQ community continue to face elevated rates of violence and harassment.The freedom to marry and settle down may extend across the nation, but financial and career stability isn’t guaranteed in each state. Protections prohibiting workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation exists only in 22 states, and only 19 of these states possess statutes guarding against discrimination based upon gender identity. Additionally, increased rates of poverty and homelessness still need to be addressed.
People — while they may strive for security and companionship — also tend to fear the upheaval of tradition. Recent attempts to nullify or combat the Court’s ruling, as suggested by a group of government officials and presidential candidates, only demonstrate an unwillingness to improve the greater good in an attempt to calm this trepidation.
Let people be people. It’s a simple statement, and it most likely lacks some needed nuance. Yet, at its core, it describes a basic principle for how we should act towards one another. As a society, our goal, despite differences of opinion, should be to promote the idea that each person is free to express their identity as authentically as possible without outside inhibitors or judgment.
Melissa Scholke can be reached at email@example.com.