03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New Jersey, Just Say No

How do you argue against equality? How do you argue against that which we hold to be self-evident? How do you argue against the premise of a nation's founding, the assurance that we are more complex than our classifications, that we are more alike than what makes us unique?

You don't.

You argue in favor of unrelated distractions and dynamics. You aim to defend that which has never been attacked. You claim to protect the next generation, without considering the implications of what that means. You argue that this isn't an issue of equality- that is, if you choose to argue at all.

Last week, on the floor of the New York State Senate, 37 out of the 38 members who voted "no" to marriage equality had nothing more to say. There was no effort to rationalize their decisions, and no explanation offered to their constituents. After the debate, the one vocal law maker insisted that his decision was a matter of "choice." An ironic statement considering that choice is the very thing that was voted down.

"No" is not a sufficient explanation for denying millions of New Yorkers a right that I am free to take for granted. "No" is not how this country intended for us to begin -- let alone end -- a debate on equality. "No" warrants the question why. When that explanation is based in not fact, but freedom, than we must ask why the same freedom that enables a State Senator to say "no" in Albany prohibits a same-sex couple from saying "I do" in Brooklyn.

Every generation has had to push back on the shortsightedness of our predecessors, and sometimes our leaders, mine is no different.

The vote in New Jersey has been postponed indefinitely. We can anticipate their justifications as we analyze the ramifications of the lawmakers and citizens who have thus far said no. Yet to do so without context limits real insight into where this debate is going. Ultimately, we will arrive at the right decision, self-evident yet unrealized, articulated long before this debate began--all men are created equal. Every lawmaker who speaks to this issue, every citizen who votes on this issue, has a choice. Yet that choice must be shaped by this conviction.

So when the time comes, I urge the New Jersey State Senate to say no; but not on the floor, and not during roll call. Say no to allowing politics to set the precedent. Say no by refusing to perpetuate the belief that our differences are something to be legislated. Say no to pushing an argument that neglects the lessons of history.

Say Yes to equality.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sara Haile-Mariam.