February 3, 2004
Not So Gay Times
BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
The Equator is growing smaller, the Poles are melting, the continent-size hole in the Earth's ozone layer keeps getting bigger and bigger, and we still don't know who draws the crop circles in the earth.
You might think with all these horrifying, amazing, and stunning realities, we would be concerned and searching for the answers and the remedies to these really important issues. But nay, our president, in his State of the Union address, deemed athletes' steroid drug use and non-heterosexual marriages two of his top priorities.
In his Address, President Bush, the "Compassionate Conservative," who invokes the name of the Lord in every public speech he makes, asked citizens to help him fight against activist judges who are attempting to redefine marriage by court order and destroy the "sanctity of marriage."
The scourge of his condemnation is directed to a large sector of alternative lifestyle partners. Couples who are no less loving, no less devoted to one another than the 'sanctified' couples President Bush considers endorsed by God and who are one with his interpretation of the Bible.
Republican lawmakers in nine of the thirty-seven states that have "Defense of Marriage" acts are not satisfied with their existing laws. Vigorously and voraciously the neocons and paleocons are campaigning to their Christian constituents that any union of same sex partners is an abomination and as such, new, more stringent laws need to be enacted. After all, Gay couples in marriage are a threat to God-fearing Christians everywhere. Every one knows that!
Same sex couples have been living as married couples for centuries. But they have been doing so without the federal benefits automatically afforded legal heterosexual unions. Gay couples are denied the very basic laws dignifying their communion.
Without the legal union, gay couples cannot avail themselves to a single one of the 1,049 laws and benefits automatically entitled by marriage in the Federal system, including: entitlement to bereavement leave; automatic inheritance; domestic violence protection; immunity against testifying against their spouse, joint bankruptcy; wrongful death benefits; or loss of consort benefits, and that's just the tip of this proverbial iceberg.
No president should be entitled to determine who is a couple and who is not; nor should the Federal Government or individual states, for that matter. We need to embrace every citizen and fight for their individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This should include the union and recognition of all loving relationships in marriage whether gay, lesbian, or heterosexual.
This is not the first time extremists have pitted man against man and woman against woman. In 1919, there arose a religious wail that alcohol would be our damnation. It wasn't until 1933, that Prohibition was repealed. There have been other fights. The Suffrage Movement fought for fifty long years, for the right for women to vote, but also for basic rights such as: property rights; employment and educational opportunities; divorce and child custody laws; and increased social freedoms. Sound familiar?
It wasn't until 1954 that the NAACP won a landmark case that paved the way for large-scale desegregation in schools. A year later, in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus; in 1964, nine years afterwards, civil rights groups converged on the Democratic National Convention, launching a monumental protest to register black voters. That same year, on July 2nd, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act presumably ending segregation in public facilities and discrimination in employment.
But the fight for the right to marry inter-racially is the battle that most closely defines the present-day struggle for recognition of same-sex marriage. Arguments that sound eerily indistinguishable from those applied to same-sex unions, "immoral" and "unnatural," were decried in reference to inter-racial marriages.
As late as 1948, thirty-eight states still forbade marriages of mixed-colors. Not until 1967, when the Supreme Court declared that the "freedom to marry" belonged to all Americans; that marriage is one of our "vital personal rights," and that the right to marry is "essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by a free [people]," were inter-racial couples free to wed.
One last ditch fight was overturned, but not without a valiant effort by a Virginia judge who withheld his state's ban on inter-racial marriages citing that it was, "God's intention to separate the races." Today, the "Defense of Marriage Act" regarded in esteem by George W. Bush and the far right, should be held to the same stringent principles as proclaimed by the Supreme Court in 1967.
Definitively, the similarities are strikingly undeniable.
Most of us would agree the battle for equality still goes on. We have a long and illustrious history of separatism and superiority. There has always been a fanatical segment of the population that equates equality for others as a loss to their conceived elitist position. How else can one explain the purpose for keeping women from voting and from being recognized as equal; for keeping blacks second-class citizens devoid of their civil rights and diminishing their dignity; for preventing same sex couples from the laws of marriage that would afford them recognition as a lawful uniting and the benefits therein?
This single issue unites all fair-minded individuals throughout our land. Presidential candidate's Kucinich, Dean, and Kerry have all vowed their protection under our Constitution and our civil rights laws to the dignity of marriage to all couples no matter their sexual orientation.
If the denial of a legalized union of two loving individuals, if fear of the abolishment of our civil liberties in the USA Patriot Acts, and if fear of the diminishing jobs for American workers, and unaffordable medical care, and an affordable drug plan for every citizen isn't enough to motivate the citizenry to join together to take back our country, then we are destined to follow our leader into a deep, putrid morass without any hope of salvation.
It is time to celebrate our differences, honor one another, delight in the joy of harmony, smile as we gaze upon a loving couple -- any couple. And, if it be our only option, we should join hands, stand shoulder to shoulder and fight for equality and dignity for all humankind.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer and host of upcoming television program, The Norma Sherry Show on WQXT TV.
Email Norma: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Norma Sherry 2004
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