On September 7, Marriage Equality USA hosted a screening of the movie Just Gender, a documentary focusing on the transgender experience. Many people have asked us, "Why is a marriage organization involved with this movie screening and similar events?”
The answer is simple: the movement for marriage equality is based on the premise that gender should not be a disqualifying factor for two people seeking to unite in marriage.
A common assumption is that marriage equality is an “LGB” issue, accounting for the misnomer “gay marriage” so often used in the media. In fact, marriage equality covers far more than the issue of sexual and romantic orientation. It encompasses much greater considerations of gender, gender identity, equality and equal access to institutions irrespective of where one may fall on the spectrum of gender identity.
Transgender people are harmed in all the same ways other members of our community are by being denied access to the full range of benefits that marriage equality ensures. However, there are also specific areas where transgender people without the freedom to marry suffer unique harm, such as not having their gender identity listed on their legal identification. Marriage equality would make this a moot point, as gender wouldn't be a factor when it comes to marrying the person you love. When one person in a couple is transgender, they may also suffer from the the inability to access quality, transgender-inclusive health care without the benefit of legal marriage.
The ideal of full marriage equality cannot be realized without all of us actively working for the right of transgender individuals to be fully accepted and recognized for who they are. MEUSA Board Member Denise Norris, who specializes in transgender workplace inclusion for a large consulting firm, says, “I have always been a strong supporter of marriage equality because of its impact on our entire community. As I see it, there is a tremendous overlap of the people and issues associated with sexual orientation and gender identity. We are all fighting the same war, just on different areas of the terrain. MEUSA is a truly inclusive force for marriage equality and has a history of engaging the transgender community and supporting trans-specific initiatives for equality.”
“Our mission statement makes this clear,” says Brian Silva, MEUSA Executive Director. “Marriage Equality USA's mission is to secure legally recognized civil marriage equality for all, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, at the state and federal level.”
When MEUSA becomes involved in transgender-focused situations, such as the recent controversy over the continued exclusion of transgender women from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, our actions are based on the realization that there is no security in ‘partial’ equality, or equality for some people but not for others. “As long as discrimination or exclusion against one group of people exists, the rights of all remain threatened,” says Silva.