…many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
Free at last! Free at last!
— Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1963
For the past few years, I have been trying to get to something in my thinking and position about marriage equality. I have written before that I support marriage equality, as I support equality of access to higher education, employment, health services, and housing. Even as marriage became available to same-sex couples prior to 2015 in a few places in the US, it was inaccessible to hundreds of thousands more because of distance and other hardships. For my late husband and me, legally sanctioned marriage still remained elusive to us, as it is to many heterosexual couples, because our health care coverage system penalizes partners of people with significant physical impairments. In this tangle of issues, I have tried to sort out my position, on one hand clearly insisting on rights, and on the other, knowing they will not be accessible to me.
Then this fall, two admired counselors of mine made a point that shed light on my quandary. Rights must be protected for us to be free, but our rights alone will not effect our liberation. Human rights are a necessary but insufficient element of our liberation. My position has become clearer with this understanding. I cannot be free in the United States without the right to marry. The right to marry will not liberate me.
Today, I reflect on Dr. King’s often repeated speech from the 1963 March on Washington. None of us can be free without universal voting rights, equal access under the law, living wages. And, even though these rights will not free us, we — none of us — will be free without them for all. The repressive forces of the greedy in our country may feel victimized by equal access, but their feelings cannot be our gauge.
Today I am thankful for the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To be free at last, the rights of all must be defended. Our destinies are one.