CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every year on Thankgiving, thousands of West Virginians make lists of people, places, things and events for which they are thankful. Some thank God, others Allah, and some Yahweh or countless others. They thank their families, and on a completely secular level, so many West Virginians thank our soldiers.
I am one of those West Virginians.
Sacrificing one's comfort, safety and time spent with loved ones for the greater good and protection of society is one of the noblest efforts an American can undertake; thus, it is my strong-held belief that when our soldiers come home, they should have communities and legislators that are accepting of their individual pursuits of the American Dream.
According to the RAND Corporation, approximately 10 percent of military personnel identify as gay or bisexual. Currently, gay marriage is still not recognized in West Virginia, and although steps are being taken in order to change this (despite pushback from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey), it is upsetting to think that there are West Virginians who are still willing to deny returning soldiers the right to marry those who they love simply because of their sexual orientation.
My cousin, Lora, is a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She recently returned to the United States after being stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan for just short of 10 years. Lora came home not only with her luggage and excitement to see our family in West Virginia for more than a few weeks, but also with a fiancée: Celeste. But because of the fact that the person Lora loves is a woman, it is highly unlikely that she will stay in West Virginia much longer.
Lora and countless others can't get married under the law in the place where they grew up because West Virginia still refuses to recognize their equality as citizens of our state. West Virginia's government is denying Lora tax deductions, the right to enter a simple contract and other rights granted to traditional married couples simply because, in the eyes of a popular minority of vocal social conservatives, their love and humanity is not equal to that of heterosexual West Virginians.
This minority is wrong. Whatever your religious beliefs, be they polytheistic, monotheistic or not theistic at all, the issue of the rights of gays to enter civil unions is not within the scope of any religious judgment.
A civil union is a simple contract between two individuals that shows that both parties consent to sharing property and can make decisions for one another should circumstances become dire. Denying any American the right to enter such a contract is unconstitutional.
Our soldiers deserve better than this.
They deserve to come home to a place that accepts them no matter who they love or choose to enter a contract with. Offering them anything less seems insincere. Let us prove to our gay soldiers, and for that matter all non-heterosexual West Virginians, that they are equal in our eyes, as well as in those of the law.
Campbell is a 2013 graduate of Charleston's George Washington High School and a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.