By: Elena McCollough, Coast Guard Veteran, retired after 24 years of service
I came to this wonderful country to live permanently in 1977. I finished High School a couple of years later and the week of my 18th birthday I joined the United States Coast Guard. In the military I learned a great deal about work ethics, met amazing and life time friends, traveled to great places like Virginia, Alaska, Puerto Rico, California, Alabama and finished my career 24 years later in Florida. I am thankful to also have learned that teamwork joins individuals on a common cause and that we are most effective when we all contribute our part.
I chose to become an American and feel blessed to have experienced an amazing life. I remember being truly touched when I read the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and how blessed we are to have this rights. This week having the Supreme Court rule that bans on marriages of same-sex couples are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment was a landmark advance for freedom and equality for all Americans. I am so happy for my dear friends who are same-sex couples, who truly love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, now have the chance to marry if they choose.
However; there is another very important issue that is far less publicized than marriage equality. In Florida and many other states people can be fired because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and no protections exist. I was disappointed to discover that a person could be discriminated against, or fired from their job, based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. I believe that workers should be judged exclusively on their ability to do their job without regards to their sexual orientation. Having the best available work force in Florida will ensure a robust and growing economy and have a positive impact throughout the state.
I know that in the fight for justice and equality we will face some struggles along the way, but I hope that through more public education, our community can better understand the importance of equal treatment for everyone.