Editorial: Gay marriage passes in Illinois, but not in schools

Editorial: Gay marriage passes in Illinois, but not in schools

On Nov. 20, Illinois legalized gay marriage. Although this marked a great day for gay rights activists, their race for equality has not ended here.

Just because gay marriage is legal, does not mean a blanket of equality has spread across the state, and more importantly, across our community. Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Martin Luther King Jr. was still actively fighting for civil rights 90 years later, and, arguably, we still have a ways to go. Legislation only started to create a fair society, but it was much longer before society reflected that change.

At Metea, we have a significant population of LGBTQ students, and a significant population of gay rights activists. From the Gay-Straight Alliance club to the fact that two male students kissed in our fall play, we are definitely much farther in our quest for equality than other schools.

However, we cannot assume that just because the law has passed, equality is here. The Metea Valley Stampede Editorial Board encourages Metea students to not get complacent. Equality does not end here.
Journalist Maggie Gallagher researched this topic in Massachusetts, which legalized gay marriage in 2003. The gay teen suicide rate in 2001, before the legalization, was four times higher than straight teens.
After four years of the law, sufficient time to expect to see at least a small societal change in a society that had apparently voted and made its stance on this issue clear, the suicide rate for gay teens was still four times higher than straight teens. There was negligible change in the community.

The Editorial Board recognizes that gay marriage is not a cause all of our students support, and we encourage students to carry their own, well-informed decisions. However, the drastically higher suicide rate is everyone’s responsibility.

In a Youth Risk Behavior Survey taken in 2009, surveyors found that in Illinois, just like in Massachusetts, four times as many gay teens had attempted suicide as straight teens. The fact that 29.7% of gay high school students in Illinois have attempted suicide should be shocking. We cannot ignore this problem, or pretend it doesn’t exist anymore because gay marriage is now legal.

These statistics focus on high school students in Illinois; these statistics are about us. This is not some far-off problem that has no affect on us. This is a problem that we directly can begin to solve.

Simply being aware that this is an issue will make a big difference. Most offensive remarks, from civil rights to gay rights, stem from ignorance. Whether or not you support gay marriage, we can all agree that no one deserves to live feeling so isolated, misunderstood, or depressed that they would take their own life.

As Metea students, we have a duty to support each other while we are in this community. This doesn’t mean we have to attend GSA or get involved in politics, it means we have to respect others, no matter their sexuality, their race, or any other defining feature.
At Metea, we should strive to create an atmosphere where everyone knows they are respected and supported.

History tells us that legislation usually far precedes societal change. However, we need to learn from the past instead of merely repeating it. Waiting 90-plus years for equality is no longer an option. We have an opportunity to make the societal change that our government has legislated. It starts with us.

By the Stampede Editorial Board