My native Uruguay is a little bitty country, but sometimes it reaches out with the arms of a giant to embrace equality and justice.
Uruguay became the 12th country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples on Wednesday, and for my Uruguayan immigrant family and myself it was an incredibly exciting and affirming moment.
I could not be more proud of the government and of the advocates who have been pushing for this for so many years, and who are among the many individuals of all socioeconomic groups and faiths and professionals supporting their country’s quest to make bold moves on behalf of big ideas.
Ideals, values, principles—these are so important for all societies. They guide us the way stars guide sailors, keeping us on the right path. Ideals also lead to actions, such as passing laws that have a big impact on people’s lives.
Legalizing marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples is an important step towards full equality and justice for all. For people who are not gay or bisexual, it can sometimes be challenging to understand the importance of marriage equality. For those of us in the LGBT community, who have often spent years being treated like outsiders within our own countries, communities and even families, it’s a huge change.
Acceptance and support make people thrive and be their best selves. Hiding who you are, repressing your sexuality and trying to be something you’re not, those are painful ways to live. Nothing good, for the individual or the society, can come from forcing people to live that way.
Marriage is also important because it’s the basis of so many families. My family—starting with my parents who have been together for 49 years—has been an incredible source of love and inspiration—as is the case for many Latinos in this country and in others. My parents, sister and I came to the U.S., and learned the language and culture together and were a tight little unit. The fact that one of us—me—has a different orientation has not been a barrier and for that I feel incredibly thankful.
When any society embraces all of its citizens, that creates a much stronger foundation for life and prosperity, both material and emotional. Sadly, in many countries some groups—often funded by anti-gay U.S. organizations—are twisting religious principles and ideals to justify jailing and killing gay people.
I was so blessed to have been born in a little country with big aspirations, and then to have moved to the United States, another country that embraces ambitious and beautiful ideals. My second country is, of course, much bigger, with millions more people and tremendous diversity, which it still fails to fully embrace and protect. But progress is happening here too.
Myself and so many advocates in the U.S. look forward this summer to decisions by the Supreme Court that hopefully will once again affirm the American (both North and South) values of equality and justice for all.
MONICA TRASANDES is the director of Spanish-language media at GLAAD. She is also a writer and her novel Broken Like This was published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in Nov. 2012.
Note: The op-ed previously stated that the square mileage of Uruguay was comparable to that of Rhode Island. At 68,037 square miles, it is closer to the square mileage of Missouri or Florida.