This is a commentary I’ve submitted to KERA and hopefully they will air it…
Where We Are
Almost five years ago the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, decided government could not dictate sexual behavior between consenting adults, effectively de-criminalizing same sex relationships. Today forty-one states have Defense of Marriage laws on the books which were either enacted by legislatures or by voters. As the gay community in Dallas prepares to celebrate Gay Pride this weekend, it would be well do look at where we as a community stand on the issue of gay marriage.
After the Lawrence v. Texas decision, I wrote a commentary for KERA that described that decision as a sort of Gay Independence Day. In 2003 it seemed like the shackles that had held our community down for so long were finally being removed. I thought then that it was only a matter of time until gay marriage was legal and the full promise of equal rights would be realized by my community. Then came 2004 and the cynical use of gay marriage as a wedge issue by Republicans in their successful attempt to refocus the election from a failed president and a faltering war to fears that gay marriage would lead to the end of American civilization as we know it. A map of current “Defense of Marriage Acts” in the U.S. on NPR.org is disheartening. Almost every state except a few on either coast has outlawed marriage except between a man and a woman. Other states either have no laws on the books or are in the process of voting on laws denying the right to marry to a portion of the population. Millions of people have decided discrimination against a specific group of people is acceptable. Not since Jim Crow have laws been passed specifically denying rights to a group of people and most people seem not to be bothered by that.
Recently my mother and I were talking about gay rights. She was under the mistaken impression that it was illegal to fire someone for being gay. She was appalled that in most states I could be fired just for my sexuality, something I believe I was born with. Many people believe gays should have equal rights to housing, jobs, equal access to government benefits, etc, but when it comes to gay marriage, they draw the line. The reasons for this are as varied as the people who hold them. I know some straight people I have spoken to about this believe the Bible states marriage should be between and man and a woman and should be taken literally. I think there is also an “ick” factor for some people. They know gay people, but they don’t really want to think about what gay people do to express their sexuality in and outside of a marriage. No matter how they justify it, discrimination is still discrimination. You can’t put lipstick on that pig and make it pretty.
I believe in many respects the gay rights movement has moved backwards in the last five years since Lawrence. While California and Massachusetts have gay marriage laws on the books, there are movements in each of those states to outlaw gay marriage. Republicans continue to threaten to force a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the U.S. and Democrats hem and haw and say they are for civil unions but not gay marriage per se. Until the Supreme Court is made up of justices who will interpret the constitution in such a manner that will end discrimination in marriage, the right to marriage movement in the gay community will continue to spin its wheels. Gay people must also do their part. We have to begin to exert our economic and political influence to force politicians and the country as a whole to move away from their prejudices and move toward fulfilling the promise in the Declaration of Independence.
The idea that, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is not limited to people who are attracted to the opposite sex.