Human beings have struggled for centuries to gain equal rights. Western civilization has been characterized by the hegemonic domination by white males. This power structure has frequently and historically excluded women and minorities. In the United States, despite the foundational creed that “all men are created equal,” it has taken centuries of struggle to gain equal rights.
Equal rights, of equality before the law, means that all individuals are subject to the same laws of justice. People must be treated equally without regard to race, gender, national origin, skin color, religion or disability. African Americans were one of the first groups granted equal rights in the United States, through the passage of the 14th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Achieving equal rights in reality took another century of struggle. Women, as well, although granted the right to vote in 1920, continue to work towards equal rights, most recently through pay equity.
One of the more visible equal rights struggles in the United States is the issue of marriage equality. Homosexuals are one of the last groups to face structural discrimination, and the movement towards being allowed to legally marry a person of the same sex is a profound and current equal rights struggle in the United States, one that is being waged both in the courts and in the popular opinion of the American public.