“Liberté, égalité, fraternité”
~French National Slogan
One of the first phrases I learned in seventh grade French class was the French National Slogan, “Liberte’, egalite’, fraternite’: And now, as the fourteenth country in Europe to grant marriage equality, France is fulfilling a promise begotten by the reconstruction of that country during the French Revolution. Equality has come to France.
As Americans, we are surrounded by symbols of freedom France generously gave us. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States. The Statue of Freedom, the crowning feature of the Dome on the United States Capitol, was also a gift from France. Even the National Mall was designed by the Frenchman, Pierre Charles L'Enfant. These monuments serve as tributes to freedom and democracy, and as a nation we are indebted to France for providing us with these enduring icons. They remind us every day how precious liberty, equality, and fraternity are.
We cannot overlook the influence France has had on our history, culture, and literature. We drink French wine, eat French food, and speak (albeit most of us very poorly) some French words. And, the French financed and fought in our own American Revolution.
Americans have also been a huge part of the French experience. We were there during World Wars I & II, and just about every French city boasts an American fast food franchise. We are allies. We are friends. We are democracies.
But, now we are separated by the one thing that makes a democracy work; equality.
In France, the decision to legalize marriage for LGBT citizens did not come easily. However, when it came time for the vote (1), the measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly: 331-225. Despite violent protestors, clashes with police, and an upswing in attacks against gays in the country, France has taken a huge step forward; making it clear that in THAT country, at least, they are serious about their National Slogan.
So, what about in THIS country? THIS country says it serves as a symbol around the world for freedom, equality, and fraternity. There is progress. The State of Nevada, for example, is beginning a process that will legally overturn that State’s ban on same sex marriage. Democratic lawmakers in Delaware recently introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. And in Illinois, marriage equality seems within the realm of possibility very soon.
But, there is still much work to be done. And, despite polls that clearly show that an overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of equality, we have yet to fulfill the basic tenet of our democracy; equality for all.
In the city where Abraham Lincoln sits surrounded by his stirring words of emancipation and where thousands stroll through White House, Capitol Hill, and the Supreme Court to see democracy in action, gay marriage is legal. Interestingly enough, the Potomac still flows out to sea, the restaurants still charge too much money, people still visit museums, and mothers still push their babies in strollers.
Life has not changed much for the average citizen who lives, works, or visits Washington D.C. where marriage is legal for LGBTQ individuals. It hasn’t changed much in New York, Iowa, Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine either. But, it has changed significantly for LGBTQ individuals who wish simply to marry the person they love. At least now they are granted the same legal rights in those states (and the District) accorded every other married couple. And, besides the benefits that come from recognizing their marriages, they are granted the dignity and respect that comes with full equality under the law.
But as a nation, we must do better than this piece-meal approach to equality. And, I think we can learn a lesson from our friends, the French. They too heard all the arguments against equality. They too witnessed protests and demonstrations against treating their fellow French men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve; and they have responded with an overwhelming mandate to reject discrimination and hate. They voted for liberte’, egalite’, and fraternite’. Viva la France!
. . . And I’m just a mom who loves her son . . .
* Previously posted at www.thequ.co