Monday, December 28, 2009
Just One More Thing....
Some serious thoughts to contemplate as we all instinctively bring the year of 2009 into review.
With the coming of the new year, a lot of people are focused on making the changes that they feel they need to hopefully give themselves a better, fuller, richer, longer and especially thinner life, and that is admirable. I too desire all of the above. But can I add one more thing to the list of resolutions for your consideration? Can we all try to make 2010 the year we stretch our minds beyond the "that's how it's always been" mentality and see each other as people instead of labels to be quickly categorized and condemned because they are not like you? Can we show tolerance and understanding where we had once shown contempt and ridicule? Can we give others the same degree of human dignity and compassion that we would expect for ourselves? In short, can we try, at least, not to hate one another?
One of the big stories of this last year was the ongoing battle concerning same-sex marriage. I am not a gay man, but I feel strongly that the rights of all of our citizens should be upheld, regardless of their sexual preference. Unfortunately though, with the passage last November of Proposition 8, a state ban on same-sex marriages here in California, that struggle continues. You might call it religious intolerance or homophobia but however you spell it out, it still reads "hate."
Through lies and fear, and bolstered by millions of dollars in support by the Mormon Church and other religious organizations, these anti-gay marriage activists prevailed in imposing their narrow view that gays and lesbians are immoral and thus should be blocked from equal protection under the law.
Does anyone else see the disturbing problem of a bunch of right-wing traditionalists teaming up with the Mormon Church and campaigning to take away the civil rights from a targeted group of Californians just because their views on marriage didn't comply with their own half-baked religion?
That they were able to confuse and frighten others with ridiculous horror stories about what would happen if Prop 8 failed, does nothing to add to the legitimacy of their claims that homosexuality is patently immoral and that gays and lesbians are somehow sub-human and constitute some threat to society. And yet those are the views that have been imposed on the state, and as a consequence one of the most basic of civil rights, the right to marriage, has been stripped away from them.
Just think how far our country has come in the last 50 years. A similar struggle was being fought back then, the right for interracial marriage. Back in 1963 a married interracial couple from Virginia was arrested in their bedroom for a violation of that state's Racial Integrity Act. (Shades of Nazi Germany, you think?) The judge suspended their sentence but only on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They couple decided to appeal the judgement so that they could be allowed to live together as a couple. In 1965 the judge who ruled against them refused their appeal citing the following bit of ignorance:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
Eventually, they took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled unanimously in their favor. In their decision of Loving v. Virginia, the court wrote:
"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man', fundamental to our very existence and survival....To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."
Is it so hard for people to envision replacing the racial context of this decision with that of sexual preference? Would it be any less true if we had? Of course it wouldn't, but there will always be those ignorant masses that yearn for the return of the days of separate drinking fountains and separate bathrooms and whose apocalyptic fears of fire and brimstone raining on them if such a thing as same-sex marriage were to become legalized in their home state. Alas, despite all the efforts to educate, sometimes there's just no cure for stupid.
Not surprisingly, the Southern states, where white supremacy is still the fashion, took the longest to prohibit bans on interracial marriage. South Carolina waited until 1998 and Alabama finally officially amended their state's constitutions to remove these laws two years later. It should be noted that in the referendums, the vote was only 62% in favor of allowing interracial marriage in South Carolina and 59% in Alabama.
And now here we are, ringing in the final bells of 2009 with a biracial president. My how times have changed. I think it gives us all hope that no matter what, we aren't sentenced to suffer fools gladly forever and there is a light at the end of that tunnel.
I refuse to live in a world where religious zealots and fundamentalist whack-jobs with millions of dollars to bankroll a campaign of hatred and bigotry can impose their will on the public through deception and treachery. The U.S. District Circuit Court has set a trial date of January 11th, 2010 to review a challenge to Prop 8's federal constitutionality. The lawsuit states that "This unequal treatment of gays and lesbians denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution." Lets spread the word and get this stupid amendment repealed and help close the door on this type of civil rights piracy in other states.
The photo above is one from the NOH8 Campaign, a photo project and silent protest which celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley created in response to the passage of Proposition 8. Beginning with portraits of everyday Californians who support Marriage Equality, it now lists amongst it's subjects prominent celebrities, politicians, military personnel and basically gay and straight people from all walks of life from all over the world. The photos show subjects with duct tape over their mouths symbolizing their voices not being heard and NOH8 painted on one cheek in protest. To learn more about this grassroots campaign or to donate your support, you can check out their website at http://www.noh8campaign.com/.
Thank you for your consideration and Have a Happy New Year!