Every year when Valentine’s Day rolls around, I immediately think of a few things. Of course there’s the stuffed animals, the over-priced flowers and the stress of deciding where to go to dinner. And then there’s the inevitable decision of trying to find a date or to accept spending the holiday with a surplus of chocolate candies. But most importantly, I associate Valentine’s Day with love of every shape and form.
Unfortunately, not everyone fully grasps the concept of love as something that is available for all, and often times the GLBT community is left out of the celebration. Whether it’s Hallmark cards designated for heterosexual couples, cliché romantic comedies that fail to feature a diverse range of couples or events that neglect GLBT members, Valentine’s Day is portrayed as a straight couples’ holiday.
According to NBC10, St. Joseph University Alumni Association recently launched a Valentine’s Day Contest, “How I Met My Hawk Mate,” in which alumni shared their stories of meeting on Hawk Hill on the association’s Facebook page. The couple with the most “likes” by Valentine’s Day wins a $100 gift certificate.
But the love-inspired contest clearly wasn’t open to all. Lesbian couple Megan Edwards and Katie MacTurk, both SJU alumni, found their entry was rejected because of their sexual orientation.
The alumni association attempted to justify their decision due to the Catholic Church not recognizing same-sex relationships, ultimately leaving one to believe that not all alumni are treated equally regardless of their dedication to the university. Fortunately, after receiving an overwhelming amount of support from upset alumni and media outlets, the association reversed their decision.
While I applaud St. Joe’s for eventually allowing the couple to participate, it’s mind-blowing that this was even an issue. Isn’t this a violation of our basic human rights? Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to showcase their love? In a contest supposedly honoring affection and romance, why is there so much discrimination and hatred?
Although I am not a member of the GLBT community, I can sympathize with their hindrances. I can’t imagine not being able to share my love for my boyfriend, even if it was in some silly contest. I look forward to the romantic antics of Valentine’s Day each year, regardless of how corny the traditions are. And the saddest part is this is just one example of the prejudice and intolerance GLBT members face.
But, however disheartening Valentine’s Day may seem for couples, who feel their love isn’t recognized, there’s still definite hope regarding the fight for equality.
Advocates for same-sex marriage are using Valentine’s Day for a nationwide campaign for the protections of GLBT love, according to ABC News. Activists are visiting courthouses and county clerks’ offices and requesting marriage licenses regardless of state laws that prohibit gay marriage.
And the Valentine’s Day campaign is growing force as lawmakers in various states are weighing new legislation regarding same-sex couples. State legislators in Maryland and Rhode Island are mulling over bills that would legalize gay marriage while bills in Indiana and Wyoming, which would enforce constitutional bans on gay unions, are pending.
With an overwhelming 30 states with constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, let’s hope that one day Valentine’s Day can stand for something else. Maybe we will be able to look back on the holiday and instead of thinking of candy hearts and roses, we will remember a human rights campaign that shed light on the beauty and love of the GLBT population. But we’re going to need everyone, including the straight population, and their support to make it happen.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.