We are counting down the days until the Supreme Court hands down its decision on same-sex marriage.
At any minute, the Supreme Court will essentially tell millions of LGBTQ+ citizens whether they are valued and equal, or second-class; whether their right to love is protected like everyone else’s; whether their love is less important and less valid.
This decision will tell them if they, like everyone else, have the right to make medical decisions for their spouses, should they be unable to do so on their own. It will tell them if they can visit their spouses in the ICU or during restricted hospital visiting hours.
It will tell them if they will inherit what is left behind after their spouses pass away. It will tell them if they can make burial decisions or other final arrangements.
It will decide their financial futures by telling them if they can file their taxes jointly.
It will tell them if they are eligible for government benefits including Social Security, Medicare, disability, and veteran and military benefits for their spouses.
It will tell them if they can file for stepparent or joint adoption, if they can receive equitable division of property, spousal or child support if they divorce.
For LGBTQ+ Americans, this decision will alter so many aspects of the rest of their lives.
But, what does this mean for the rest of us?
Many of us care about the issue because we know and care about a friend, a relative or even a celebrity who identifies as LGBTQ+. Or maybe, we just care about the issue because we care about basic human rights and equality.
For those of us who don’t identify as LGBTQ+, caring is not enough.
We need to care loudly. We need to care obnoxiously. We need to care in people’s faces. We need to care every time we are asked and every time we are not.
We need to care in our private conversations and on our social media feeds. We need to care at home with our families, at work with our colleagues and at the bar with our friends.
Non-LGBTQ+ Americans, as the majority, need to constantly and continually contribute to the discourse.
It’s not enough to support in your own mind, as keeping quiet is just as bad as being an opponent.
Here are a few reasons why:
We shape the social atmosphere.
Posting a Facebook status in support of equal rights and changing your profile photo to the equality sign or a rainbow flag may seem like a small and ineffective way to show support, but it’s actually an incredibly powerful force.
A simple post like this can express a great amount of support for someone who feels marginalized.
A news feed flooded with tons of posts like these can create an entire social atmosphere of love and acceptance. But, it only works if we all join in.
More than just showing our support, it diminishes the space we leave for hate. No one wants to have the unpopular opinion, and no one wants to be called intolerant, hateful, racist or homophobic.
By continually posting in support of issues like marriage equality, we make it more and more uncomfortable for people to share posts against it.
We shape "appropriate" conversation.
What happens if you’re at a party and someone announces interracial marriages should not be legal?
You’d be able to hear a pin drop.
The idea is so antiquated that statements such as those can cost people their friends.
Even if someone did believe this to be true, he or she is most likely too embarrassed to admit it.
We need to continue verbally supporting same-sex marriage (and all LGBTQ+ equal rights) in conversation in order to make it socially unacceptable to say otherwise.
When someone announces same-sex marriage should be illegal, you want the entire room to turn around in disgust.
This will only happen if we consistently voice our opinions when the topic is brought up in conversation.
We also must refuse to stay silent when someone says otherwise.
We can keep the issue at the forefront.
Same-sex marriage is a hot topic right now because of the impending Supreme Court decision.
But, LGBTQ+ issues are not solely confined to marriage equality.
Whether or not the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, the fight for equality continues in arenas such as schools and the workplace.
When the news isn’t constantly reporting on an issue, it’s easy for the rest of us — especially those of us who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community — to forget it exists.
We need to keep talking about it. We need to keep bringing it up when no one mentions it.
We need to keep it at the front of everyone’s mind and not allow it to fall on the backburner.
We can create an open and welcoming environment for all.
What does LGBTQ equality mean for closeted youth?
What does the public conversation surrounding the issue do for an LGBTQ+ person who wants to come out?
By being conscious about the way we talk about the issue, and by continuing to talk about it publicly, we have an opportunity to carve out whether they will feel welcomed or shunned, encouraged or mocked and accepted or rejected.
We have an opportunity to create a space in which people can be themselves.
When you post a status in favor of same-sex marriage, or when you proudly announce in a group conversation that you support it, you are also telling any closeted person who sees that status or hears that statement that you are an ally.
And seeing or hearing enough of those statements can really make a difference in someone’s personal journey.
We tell the next generation how to talk about it.
As the generation before us helped shape how we talk about race today, we will shape how the generation after us talks about social issues, too.
What we say is and isn’t acceptable won’t just impact our lives, it’ll create the world in which those who come after us will live.
If you’re not doing it for yourself, your LGBTQ+ friend or family member, do it for your future son or daughter who may identify as LGBTQ+. Do it for your grandchildren.
So, what are you doing right now?
What are you going to do today? You’re going to post a status with the hashtag #LoveCantWait. You’re going to like or share an article in support of same-sex marriage.
You’re going to turn to the coworker in the cubicle next door and tell him or her how hopeful you are the Supreme Court will deliver a ruling on the right side of history.
You’re going to bring it up at the dinner table with your parents and at happy hour with your friends.
You’re going to contribute to the conversation, you’re going to drive the conversation, and you’re going to make a difference.