This is an article I wrote for the multicultural blog, Red, Brown and Blue.

I just signed the “National Marriage Boycott” pledge. A group of students at Stanford University began this movement with the simple idea that until everybody has the right to marry whomever they chose, the students will choose to not get married. I too, feel that equal rights should be just that – equal rights. At the National Marriage Boycott website, you can offer your support by signing the petition, creating a profile, and ordering their “equality ring”. I spoke with the president of the organization and she told me one of the biggest obstacles they are running into is getting people to sign the petition not because people don’t want equality for the LGBT community and everyone, but because the petition has the term “boycott” in the title. She asked me what significance I thought the word boycott might have in people’s unwillingness to sign the pledge. Her question really made me stop and think about the word boycott and people’s association with it. Many people have issue with the marriage boycott because they have issues with same-sex marriage, whether they be personal or religious. Others are on the fence on whether they want to support, resist, or take no part in change. But what is it about boycott stopping those who otherwise would be supporters of the cause?

I think the first issue we, those who would like to support the movement, have with participating is not the word boycott but the circumstances surrounding the boycott. Although the word may not necessarily evoke a negative connotation, we are typically asked to boycott institutions we deem negative. We boycott work when we feel work conditions are unsafe, workers are underpaid, or otherwise treated unfairly. We boycott stores, businesses, and brands when we feel they are involved in unethical practices. With the marriage boycott, we are being asked to abandon an institution not because we see it as unlawful, unethical, or unfair but because the environment surrounding that institution deprives a right to a specific group of people. Marriage itself does not grant one partner more rights or controls than the other. Although culture and customs play a major role in the how the marriage is run, it’s largely up to the couple to determine how to run their marriage. In American culture, marriage is often taught as one of life’s major goals. Tax breaks, the ability to share medical benefits, and other rewards that are often reserved for married couples further emphasize the importance we place on the right to marry. Why should these rights be available to some couples and not to others? While legislature and practices are slowly changing, until everybody is granted the same set of rights, we are not all created equal.

Another major issue is the archetype of the member of the majority who wants change, but doesn’t want to sacrifice the advantages they currently enjoy in order to realize that change. In order to be an agent of change, one must be willing to make sacrifices in order to identify with and help the oppressed. Many people don’t want to give up the opportunity to marry for an undetermined amount of time while the fight is fought to grant marriage rights to all. As mentioned earlier the right to marry is not only important for those who want to legally signify their love and commitment to one another, but also to enjoy the rights often designated only to married couples. Denying oneself the opportunity to marry is a sacrifice that many are either not willing or ready to make. It may be much easier for somebody who is very young, single, or doesn’t want to get married to sign and participate in the petition than somebody who is deeply in love and planning to take that step. Those that are already married may want to support the cause, but because they are married, feel they can’t. Fortunately, the National Marriage Boycott has come up with solutions for those that want to show their support but  can’t check the “single” box.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? If so, do you remember the feeling that person gave you? Do you remember the first time your heart fluttered when you came in contact with that person, how you looked at them and everything else disappeared? How would you feel if it wasn’t legal for you to enter into the institution of marriage solely because of their gender? What if the “norm” was flipped, and it straight people didn’t have equal rights. Until we all work together to correct this injustice we will not be allowed to live as true equals.

For more information visit: National Marriage Boycott Website. 

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Maine.

Michael Maine is dedicated to global communication, collaboration, and cooperation. Originally planning on utilizing his problem solving and strategic strengths in the corporate sector, his eyes were opened and life changed after taking his first Sociology class at Southwestern University, where he graduated with a bachelor in Business and minors in both Sociology and Communications.