From the Top Down: The Politics of Love
The last few years have really been a whirlwind for the LGBT community in the political arena. Our lives have been argued for, argued against, voted on, discounted to that of animalistic behavior, condemned to hell, and I could go on and on.
Parents of LGBT kids have been publicly told they should physically beat the gay out of their sons by the North Carolina Pastor, Sean Harris. LGBT individuals were told by Pastor Charles L. Worley that we should be locked away behind an electrified fence until we die out; saying:
“Build a great big large fence—50 or 100 mile long—put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. And you know what, in a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce!"
Bryan Fischer, spokesperson for the American Family Association (AFA), has made so many ridiculous anti-gay rants that it would be difficult to capture just how much hatred he and the AFA have spewed at the LGBT community and its supporters. (A simple Google search would acquaint you with some of it).
Conservative Republicans have stopped at nothing to ensure that gay and lesbian Americans remain second class citizens. Even going so far as to now argue, in the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor , that gays and lesbians have simply become so strong they couldn’t possibly need the same federal protections and benefits as every other heterosexual American citizen. The brief in this case, filed by conservative attorney Paul Clement on behalf of the House Republicans, says:
“In short, gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best-organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history ... There is absolutely no reason to think that gays and lesbians are shut out of the political process to a degree that would justify judicial intervention on an issue as divisive and fastmoving as same-sex marriage.”
And this is all only a small glimpse into the public degradation that LGBT individuals have had to encounter on a daily basis.
How does it feel?
It is difficult to describe how it feels to be an otherwise outstanding citizen, yet treated as second class. The reality is that my livelihood and that of my fellow community members is constantly being attacked and it feels terrible. It’s terrifying, confusing, enraging, and at times its feels not only helpless, but hopeless as well.
When you are being attacked from the highest ranks of society; when the government is telling you that you and your family aren’t worth protecting and allowing the laws to maintain the status-quo, you are set up for absolute failure. Set up for failure, because the message that is thereby being conveyed to the public is dangerous. By telling society that a subset of citizens are not worthy of the same rights and protections as every other citizen, you are telling that society that those individuals aren’t worth protecting anywhere. Dangerous, because that very same message also says that we are not equal members of this society and therefore don’t deserve equal treatment. This message is precipitating the poor treatment of LGBT individuals everywhere. Honestly, how can you expect society to treat fellow citizen’s fairly, equally, and with dignity, if the very government they live under cannot even do so?
The equation is simple. It means that my daily reality is one of fear. Consider, for a moment, how terrifying it is to know that if you or your loved one were in an accident and ended up in the hospital – how terrifying would it be to not have the ability to comfort or be comforted by the one person who means the most to you? Consider how terrifying it would be to be denied the ability to say goodbye to the one person you’ve committed your life to as they die alone in a hospital bed.
I am fearful that my children will be subjected to the very same hatred; that they will grow up being taught that their parents aren’t equal members of society. I am terrified for them to learn that their parents, though just as loving as every other parent, aren’t legally allowed to marry one another. I am fearful that under the eyes of the law, because I can’t marry my partner, she won’t have the same legal rights of our children until we file lengthy and expensive adoption paperwork.
I am fearful that someday, an ignorant bigot will decide that simply seeing my partner and me together in public was far too much for them to handle civilly, and our safety will be in danger. Or that one day, the verbal abuse and hateful stares we receive on a regular basis will happen in front of our children.
Beyond the daily fears for the safety of my family, I also have to acknowledge those moments when I struggle with getting myself to walk above the hatred. The moments when I struggle with seeing myself as normal, because every message I receive is that I am not. The moments when I struggle with keeping my chin up after receiving stares and hurtful glances in the supermarket. The moments when I struggle with tears because another LGBT child is in the news after committing suicide, or having been beaten for being gay.
The reality is that love is a human condition. It comes in all different forms, shapes, colors, and is found under many different circumstances. Love will overcome diversity and can last a lifetime. Love is a natural part of being human – the desire to love and be loved is inherent, from the very moment we are born into this universe.
The reality is that marriage is not a religious entitlement. It’s not an exclusive religious event – reserved by only the Christian community, or only the Catholic community. Our society has a tolerance for the presence of many different religions and allows its people to choose between Jewish marriage ceremonies, Catholic ceremonies, Muslim ceremonies, non-denominational ceremonies, Justice of the Peace ceremonies, etc.
And because marriage is not a religious entitlement, it is not okay to use your personal religion or spiritual views as an excuse to disallow two loving and committed individuals from wedding. It is not a valid excuse to attempt to remove a basic right granted to every American citizen. I understand your religion causes you to believe homosexual relationships are sinful… But, honestly, if you aren’t engaging in one, why does it matter?
The reality is that so long as you are in love with someone of the opposite sex, you could decide tomorrow to go down to any Justice of the Peace and tie-the-knot on a whim. So long as you even fall in-lust with someone of the opposite sex, you could get black-out drunk, get married by an Elvis impersonator after blowing all your money gambling, wake up the next morning only to realize what you’ve done and get an annulment that very day. What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas right?
The reality is that marriage cannot be a federal right reserved for some, and not others. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is meant to protect all citizens from being denied equal protection under the law (known as the Equal Protection Clause). Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states:
“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.”
The parallels in History:
Less than fifty years ago, it was illegal in many states for a black person to marry a white person. Less than fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1967, overturned the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama, in the groundbreaking unanimous ruling of Loving v. Virginia; thereby allowing interracial couples the federal rights and protections to marry.
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in Loving v. Virginia:
"The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men ... 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 marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."
That very same statement is just as valid if you were to replace “race” with “gender.” Just as before, it is time to understand the realities of love; the reality that though marriage has always been a subject of political argument, you are leaving human lives in the balance.
The issue has never been about the piece of paper, the certificate of marriage. It’s about dignity; it’s about commitment; it’s about family; it’s about the children; it’s about changing the message to one of equality and compassion for fellow human beings; it’s about saving the lives of those that are unnecessarily ending before they can even begin.
Positive Political Strides:
Quite a few positive steps have taken place recently at the top ranks of our government that cannot go without noting. Early in 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. DOMA is controversial because Section 3 defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman for federal recognition.
On September 20, 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed; allowing gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve their country openly in the military.
On December 6, 2011, Hilary Clinton delivered a groundbreaking speech to the United Nations on LGBT rights, arguing that gay rights are human rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a number of cases to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of the controversial Proposition 8 in California in Hollingsworth v. Perry. (All of the referenced cases have been ruled Unconstitutional by the respective lower courts).
On January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama made history when he, in his inaugural speech, not only referred to “our gay brothers and sisters” but said that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," and that "the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."