Every year I write a letter to the editor regarding National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11). This day is an important opportunity for LGBT people to be open about who they are. It is also a chance for straight people to express their support for equal rights and mutual respect.
This year, it is especially important for all LGBT people and their allies to come out, not just to celebrate the freedom to be themselves, but also in support of marriage equality.
On Nov. 6, voters will have the opportunity to approve Referendum 74 and once and for all give everyone the same right to marry whomever they want in a civil proceeding. (Churches will not be forced to perform gay marriages, but some will happily do so.) All domestic partnerships can become legal marriages.
In some sense, the effort to approve R-74 is just a battle over a word, but it is a very important word. Why should one group be able to define the meaning of a word we all use? How can one group think it can keep a word just for itself? Can language be segregated? No.
Neither can the evolution of a word be stopped. The meaning of marriage has changed over time, just as the meaning of freedom has changed. Marriage is no longer exclusive to heterosexuals, just as freedom is not just for white people.
Words are very powerful. We all know the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is false. Words can be very damaging, even though we deny it and try to rise above it.
By approving R-74, we will acknowledge that all people deserve the equal right to use and embrace any word, particularly the word “marriage.” We will not stigmatize any segment of the population by labeling them with lesser words or narrow definitions. This verbal equality will help us treat everyone’s choice of life partner with equality and respect.
In addition, by approving R-74, we will reach out to everyone, especially that gay kid who is considering suicide because she thinks she is worthless, rejected, and dirty. We will tell her she is important and worthy of happiness, worthy of that special word, “marriage.”
Words are powerful. The vote is powerful. Use your power to approve R-74. Be an equality voter.