Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘civil rights’

Walk a Mile in their Moccasins

What does the name of Washington, DC’s football team and the 30-mile ridge along the Allegheny Mountains stretching from western Maryland into Pennsylvania have in common?  The names are considered by some to be offensive. For decades, Native Americans, with respect to “Redskins”, and African-Americans, with respect to “Negro” Mountain, have sought to rid the region of these lingering relics of a bygone era. Recognizing that each group’s separate efforts have resulted in little to no success, Cortland Milloy, a columnist for the Washington Post, called for African-Americans and Native Americans to pool their resources to create a stronger voice, one more likely to be heeded. Http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-01-29/local/36612601_1_offensive-names-washington-redskins-mount-davis.

On another front, Julian Bond and others are trying to forge “a national constituency for civil rights” that includes all Americans standing together to level the playing field for all Americans in our ongoing momentous struggle against inequality and injustice.  After all, as Mr. Bond says, “[lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights are civil rights” worthy of inclusion in our “historic struggle for civil rights” and justice. A critical mass having the power to cut short a politician’s career or detrimentally affect the finances of a reluctant team owner has a better chance of educating the more callous among us and effecting change.

To speak in one voice, however, requires identifying with another’s feelings. Because intolerance is an equal opportunity victimizer, targeting a wide range of characteristics, including race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual preference, age and disability, almost all of us have had the “slings and arrows” of intolerance leveled directly at us. One would think empathy would come easy. Yet, it is still in short supply where intolerance is concerned.

We feign a failure to notice. We stand apart as if we are safe while the “other” is victimized – a “better him than me” mentality. We defend our prejudices by blaming the “other’s” thin-skin. We may even participate in offensive rituals to mask our own fear of being targeted or to pump ourselves up into believing that we are better than “them”. Even if we can say with all certainty that we are not bigots, racists or homophobes, who among us can say we have not laughed at an ethnic joke or said something stereotypically stupid?

Yet, we seethe when vitriol is leveled against us, and are blithely unaware when vitriol spews from us.  Now is the time to walk a mile in their moccasins. Now is the time to feel someone else’s pain. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on this the 50th anniversary of his historic March on Washington – “No one is free [of injustice and intolerance] until everyone is free [of injustice and tolerance]”.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Governor Christy – the majority is NOT always right

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...

Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/11aCWSW

Governor Christy, the moderate Republican governor of New Jersey, has made his position on marriage equality abundantly clear. He is against it. Nonetheless, he is willing to accept same-sex marriage if a majority of the people of New Jersey, by referendum, tell him to. The granting of basic civil and human rights to a minority should never be left to the will of the majority.  These rights, including the right to marry someone of one’s choosing, are not the majority’s to “give”. It is the epitome of arrogance for the Governor to think otherwise, even if he is willing to go along with the majority on the issue.

Governor Christy has now compounded his error. On Wednesday’s Ask the Governor radio show on NJ 101.5 FM, the Governor condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision voiding a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. He said the decision was not only “bad”, but “just another example of judicial supremacy rather than … the government [being] run by the people we actually vote for,” and “incredibly insulting to those … members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Governor Christy’s words are astounding in light of this country’s history. Majorities have abridged and, in some instances, obliterated minority rights. Surely, he needs no reminder:

  • of the Jim Crow laws, enacted by the majority, that relegated African-Americans to second-class citizens and assured that the White majority would never suffer African-American proximity in restaurants, movies, hotels, schools and bathrooms to mention only a few legislated locations;
  • of the miscegenation laws, enacted by the majority, that banned inter-racial marriage in many states so that the blood of the White majority would not be diluted;
  • of the sexist laws that gave control over females’ bodies to the male legislative majority who enacted those laws;
  • of the homophobic laws, like the Defense of Marriage Act,  enacted by the majority, that withheld rights and benefits because the sexual orientation of the affected individuals was different from that of the majority, and that

the Supreme Court of the United States protected the rights of the minority in all of these cases.

Governor Christy should be applauded for providing moderation at a time when moderation is critically important to the viability of our two-party system of government. However, the Governor is running for reelection and harbors Presidential aspirations, both of which may account for Wednesday’s blatant appeal to the Conservative faction of his party. His position on marriage equality, his re-election campaign and his political aspirations aside, the Governor’s denouncement of the Supreme Court’s role in insuring minority rights is foolish in light of the majority’s history of malevolence. Whether by referendum or by legislative enactment, the majority cannot be the ultimate arbiter of minority rights. Sadly, that reality should be apparent to all Americans, including Governor Christy.

See, http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/06/27/chris-christie-denounces-doma-ruling, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-jersey-gov-chris-christie-rips-supreme-court-doma-decision-article-1.1384015 and http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/06/christie_gay_marriage.html

Same-sex marriage is here to stay

English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2010. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today and tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether the government has a legal basis for denying gays and lesbians both the right to marry and the benefits of marriage.  If precedent governs the Court’s decision, the Justices will search for harm caused by same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, for those diehard marriage equality haters, there simply is none. Even the lawyers who argued the case in California admitted as much.

If there is no provable harm, then the Court will be faced with a different, more perplexing question. Can the Supreme Court uphold same-sex marriage bans and the Federal government’s discrimination against same-sex couples if a majority of the nine Justices believe same-sex marriage is morally reprehensible or homosexuality is just plain yucky? Our country is a country of laws. As such, the Justices’ religious beliefs or personal distaste should never be an adequate reason for denying civil rights. At least one Justice, Antonin Scalia, however, might disagree. He vociferously opposes same-sex marriage, and has telegraphed his moral outrage from the bench. When dissenting against the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down anti-sodomy laws, the Justice was fearful that allowing sodomy would inexorably lead to allowing same-sex marriage and would obliterate any distinction “between heterosexual and homosexual unions”. (Sodomy isn’t even the distinction the Justice believes it to be, since sodomy is practiced willingly by many heterosexual couples.) See, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/bruni-marriage-and-the-supremes.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Justice Scalia is now in the minority in America. A monumental shift has occurred in just a few years.  In an ABC News/Washington Post survey, respondents favored same-sex marriage by a margin of 58% to 36%, almost an exact reversal from the respondents in a similar poll conducted seven years ago. Over 81% of young adults now support same-sex marriage.  Http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/03/18/gay-marriage-support-hits-new-high-in-post-abc-poll/ Our President is a staunch supporter when just a year ago he was not. The Republican Party, the standard-bearer of anti-gay rights, has done an about-face in only a matter of months.

If the politicians wish to remain in office, then they will support same-sex marriage, making the Court’s decision somewhat irrelevant. If the Court decides that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, Congress can repeal it. If the Court decides a state’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional, the state legislature can repeal it and replace it with a marriage equality law. Same-sex marriage is here to stay, because Americans have finally stood for what is right and fair and will cause their politicians to do the same even if the Supreme Court chooses not to.

Marriage Equality is a Conservative Issue

There’s a major disconnect between conservative values and conservative politics on the issue of marriage equality. I am at a loss to understand why political conservatives oppose same-sex marriage rather than vociferously and whole-heartedly support marriage equality.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who support the Defense of Marriage Act and its denial of basic civil and human rights to same-sex couples are the same individuals who believe government should keep its nose out of our private lives, which I assume includes our bedrooms.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who support DOMA and its countermanding of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution are the same individuals who believe the Constitution should be strictly construed, which I assume includes the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who espouse, as a true conservative value, committed and stable relationships through government-sanctioned marriage are the same individuals who refuse to afford this same commitment and stability to families in which the parents are same-sex.

Marriage Equality is an issue that screams for intellectual honesty from political conservatives. So, why are political conservatives disingenuous on an issue at the very core of their family values? Politically, it makes no sense.  But, politics is probably not at the root of this inconsistency. It strikes me that being opposed to gay and lesbian civil rights has more to do with misplaced religious beliefs than with political beliefs.  It’s time for conservatives not only to stop their opposition to, but lead the fight for marriage equality.  Since marriage equality is four square with conservative values and philosophy, it’s a  conservative issue whose time has come.

Image courtesy of: http://michael-in-norfolk.blogspot.com/2012_03_25_archive.html

Marriage Equality – A Human Rights Issue

We don’t really need the Supreme Court to tell us that basic human and civil rights are our inheritance as citizens of the United States of America. Do we?  Hasn’t the legality of marriage equality and the illegality of the Defense of Marriage Act already been decided in this country a multitude of times in different contexts?  Why must we go this route again and again to make our basic human rights and our Constitutional promises a reality to ever-widening groups of Americans?

The battle was literally fought, through guns and war, at the very inception of this nation when we banded together against the Goliath Great Britain for our freedom, and created our country founded on inalienable rights. Then we fought again, Americans against Americans, in our horrendous Civil War.  The outcome of that war expanded the group benefitting from those inalienable rights and our Constitutional freedoms.

Many times groups of Americans have come before our courts to ask to be recognized as having our Constitutionally mandated inalienable and basic rights. The courts have extended these rights and freedoms to woman and to African-Americans, to name two such groups. These decisions should have been foregone conclusions based on the promise of our Constitution and the many, many Americans who have died fighting for our freedoms.  Even if they were not foregone conclusions, at least we now have a body of law to serve as precedent for gay, lebian and transgender equality.

So what is the difference between the gay, lesbian and transgender quest for equality and the other hard fought and won quests that came before?  Nothing.  Like all before, arguments were made that God was against the particular equality being sought. I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time getting into God’s head, and a harder time carrying out God’s vast plan to supposedly keep certain of God’s creation inferior under man’s law. Besides, we are a nation founded on the separation of church and state. What your God may find repulsive, mine may not, and those difference are not legal theories upon which our courts can or should base their decisions.

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/xvQ2nC

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/xvQ2nC

Injustice to a few is injustice to all. I know it has been said many times before, but it bears mentioning again. We must stand together, as Americans of all stripes, to assure that the very foundations of our Constitutional freedoms are available to all Americans, regardless of race, gender, national origin and sexual orientation.

You might find Cory Booker’s human rights speech enlightening on this subject.

 

Tag Cloud