Gay rights are the civil rights issue of this generation. It takes no courage or special enlightenment for someone like me to make this statement. We live in a society rampant with prejudice, violence, bigotry and outright hatred toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people, but without the outspoken support of people like you and me, the dominance of this bias will continue. We live in a nation that has refused the LGBT community equal protection under the law, a nation that uses manufactured religious literalism to deny secular equality to LGBT citizens. It should, of course, come as no suprise that these same arguments were the ones used to justify supposed caucasian superiority during slavery and segregation, and yet, many in our society accept this basic injustice without standing up for the principles upon which our nation was founded. Too often, because of political or social pressure, we dismiss the rights of the minority in order to justify our own comforts and privileges.
There is a line being drawn in the sand this week in California. As Californians head to the voting booth next Tuesday, they are being asked to vote into law a proposition, Proposition 8, that would deny thousands of LGBT people the right to same-sex marriage. Much like the failed attempts at a national Defense of Marriage Act, this would be one of the few times that the government would allow voters to decide whether or not to deny civil rights to citizens in their community. Sadly, this issue is being left to the states; I am exhausted by the strategy of making these decisions “local” instead of applying the Federal protection of the U.S. Constitution to guarantee the rights of all Americans under the law. Had we left the issue of civil rights for people of color to the states, without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I’m sure segregation would not be as distant a memory as it is today. Under the current Administration, there is obviously no will to enact Federal equality for LGBT citizens and the future doesn’t look much better; Both Obama and McCain stand in opposition to equality for gay marriage under the law. And so, it comes down to the voters to once again duke it out at the state level, a sad testament to the limitations of our nation’s laws; why is equal protection under the law being left to a vote? Separate but equal didn’t work for our other public institutions in the 20th Century, why should we create a separate institution for our queer citizens to have a private relationship in the 21st Century? Certainly these rights are protected under the 14th Ammendment?
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
I write this tonight urging all voters registered in the State of California to vote NO on Proposition 8, to extend the same right to marriage to your LGBT neighbors that you would ask for yourself. Empathy is the only hope we have as a nation, the ability to wish for others the right to live a life unfettered by discrimination. There is hope; I point you in the direction of this pronouncement by Jerry Sanders, the Republican Mayor of San Diego, whose refusal to follow his campaign promise to veto a city council resolution in support of gay marriage is one of the most moving and enlightened pieces of political action I’ve ever seen. This is the Holywood ending I’m hoping for in California; Will other Californians rise to Mayor Sanders’ level of personal integrity? Here’s hoping.
September 19, 2007
Please, regardless of your political leanings, remember this Tuesday that our nation was founded not to protect limited access to our social institutions, but to extend them democratically to all citizens. Californians, please Vote NO on 8.