In My Lifetime I Will Have Rights: Marriage Equality & Beyond

Frankie, a college sophomore from Indiana, has been a leader and participant at the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton since its creation. For more information about Keshet’s programming for teens click here.

“Never in my lifetime.”

This is a phrase I have become all too familiar with this year in Indiana.

Frankie and fellow participants at the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton
Frankie (on left) and fellow participants at the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton

From my father, to members of my Jewish and queer community where I go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, none of these individuals believed they would see marriage equality come to the Hoosier State. But, thanks to a court ruling Indiana’s law banning same-sex ceremonies as unconstitutional, couples throughout my state have been finally able to have their loving relationships legally recognized.

However, as happy as I am to be able to see this, as a 20-year old college student, it doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me.

I did believe it would happen in my lifetime, maybe not as soon, but eventually. I have had support from peers and it is much more difficult to find people who oppose equal marriage at my age than to find those who support it. (I am also not looking to be married anytime soon.)

What is important to me is going to school somewhere I feel safe, being able to find a job in a place with both a welcoming Jewish community and a place where I, as a Queer identified person, do not have to fight for my rights.

I, and my peers, may not be in the market for a spouse, but we are in the market for a job and a place to live. While it is phenomenal that I can be married now in Indiana, in many states, and hopefully if the Supreme Court rules on the side of equality in every state, in many places I can still be fired for wearing nail polish to work and be denied the ability to lease an apartment based on my sexual orientation.

Marriage equality is an important, vital fight that may almost be won. But it is not the end.

This past summer I interned for Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO’s LGBTQ constituency group. During my time there, I learned a great deal about the work that still needs to be done in advancing employment rights for those in the LGBTQ community. Soon all couples may be able to have a legally recognized marriage, but not all couples will be able to display their wedding photo proudly at their desk without fear of backlash.

As a college student, these are the pressing rights on my mind.

When I graduate college, I will be looking for a Jewish community to join, but before that will come finding a place where I can feel safe and secure in my rights. A place where I do not have to conceal who I am at that job I hopefully find, or worry that if I ever try and challenge a future landlord that my sexuality could be held over my head. Why would I choose to live somewhere where this could even be a concern?

I have spent my entire life in Indiana, but as long as sexual orientation and gender identity are not legally protected classes, it does not seem like a smart place for me to begin building a future.

The Jewish community has long been an advocate for equal rights, and we as Jews can understand wanting things like employment protection. We value our legally protected right as a religious group to have High Holidays respected, and we believe in the simple but critical way of living life as treating your neighbor and the stranger like you would yourself.

The Jewish community has been a huge supporter as one of the strongest religious voices in the fight for equal marriage. I ask, hope, and truly believe that this community will not stop here. Marriage equality is a great first step, but it is just that one of many steps.

Let us change the phrase from “Not in my lifetime” to “In my lifetime.” In my lifetime, there will be full marriage equality. There will be employment and housing protections. There will be health care rights and LGBTQ will become a protected class in the eyes of the law.

One of my favorite phrases in Judaism is L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation. We as Jews make it a point to create a better world for the generation to come. Let us make a difference. In my lifetime I will have rights. Love and equality will win.

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