By, Sonya Lynn Hipper
November 5th, 2008
There are truly no words to describe the historic importance of Barack Obama’s victory in the Presidential election yesterday. It was the culmination of literally hundreds of years of sacrifice and difficult social progress. To have gone from binding Africans in chains to work American plantations to a Civil War to halt that odious institution, then through Reconstruction, “separate but equal”, and the racial Civil Rights movement to get to President-elect Obama is nothing short of miraculous.
And no image, save perhaps for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the Mall in Washington, D.C., is quite as iconic of that struggle as Rosa Parks’ simple, dignified refusal to sit at the back of the bus simply because her skin was a different color than those in the front.
Why, then, have Americans in almost all 50 states of this union voted to force same-sex couples to the back of the bus even as people of color have finally achieved the highest office in the land?
Yesterday, even my beloved home and birthplace of California turned hundreds of thousands of its own residents, myself included, into second-class citizens by passing the hateful Proposition 8 and enshrining bigotry into a document which previously stood as a beacon of American equality and liberty.
Socially conservative people of color hate it when the LGBT community equates their struggle for equal rights with that of black Americans. They want to shut the door behind them and engage in that most dolorously American of sentiments, “I got mine, Jack,” because “we’re not like those people over there.”
While it’s true that LGBTs have never been enslaved in this country, we have been (and continue to be) killed and assaulted simply for being who we are. Thousands per year, and that’s just what’s reported. We’ve seen our social venues raided by the police for decades…centuries, even…and been arrested because, like miscegenation, our simple act of expressing our love to one another was illegal…and still was in over 20 states until Lawrence v. Texas was decided in 2003. We were called a “sickness” by the medical and psychological establishments until my own lifetime, much as black people were told by the medical establishment of the 19th Century that their brains weren’t the equal of caucasians’ brains. What’s more, we haven’t even been given the mockery of “separate but equal”…it’s not even seen as necessary to so much as pay lip service to the idea of our equality.
And the facts remain the same today as they were yesterday:
1. Sexual orientation isn’t a “choice” and never has been…it’s as immutable as the color of one’s skin, as has been shown over and over again. Not one legitimate scientific study has shown that people with same-sex attractions can be “converted”.
2. Same-sex couples marrying would affect mixed-sex marriages not one iota
3. Homophobic bigots would remain just as free to brainwash their children with their bigotry if same-sex couples could marry
4. No church would be forced to perform any marriage ceremony it didn’t want to
5. No child would have been taught anything about same-sex marriages or the mechanics of homosexuality in schools except possibly the simple acknowledgement that such marriages existed and that some of their classmates had two mommies or two daddies (the last of which is still inescapable reality, by the way, no matter how far into the sand you stick your head)
This fight isn’t over, of course. This will only drive more LGBT folks and their non-LGBT allies to activism while history moves inexorably forward. The Millennials are a baby boom almost equal to that of the “Boomer” generation, and they don’t see what the big deal is about treating all loving, committed relationships equally. At the worst, I think we just need to wait until enough of the homophobic fossils in this country die off and their much wiser children and grandchildren reverse the legislative folly of embedding barefaced bigotry into the documents which define our society.
We may not even have to wait terribly long, given that it took only eight years to get from Prop 22 passing 61%-39% to Prop 8 only squeaking by 52%-48%. At that rate of change, we might even get out of the back of the bus by 2010.
But for now, Rosa Parks will still do at least a half-turn in her grave on a bittersweet day showing us how far we still have to go before we truly judge people only by the contents of their character.
(Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you like…just be sure to link back to the original is all I ask!)