Marriage Equality Bittersweet
After news broke that the US Supreme Court upheld marriage equality making gay marriage legal in all 50 states I posted a tweet expressing how happy I was about the court’s decision. From this short tweet I ended up having a very interesting exchange with someone who comments a lot on my blog. We disagree on almost every political issue imaginable but I love to hear his point of view. He said he was unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality a nationwide thing. Then I asked him a very simple question that he had no answer to. I asked him how this decision to legalize gay marriage would change his life or change the way he practices his religion. He couldn’t answer because the truth is it will have no effect whatsoever on his life or how he chooses to live it.
If you are one of those people who are disappointed or sadden about someone gaining rights that you already enjoy, please ask yourself how this changes anything about your life or wellbeing as a citizen of a free country. If you are one of those people who oppose this for religious reasons, please ask yourself how this will change your Sunday morning church service, or the way you read your bible, or the way you pray to God. If you’re truly being honest with yourself, you’ll see how insignificant this is in your life. But for gay people like me, this gives us a chance to better our lives. It says to us that we deserve to be treated like equals. We pay the same taxes, we abide by the same laws, we work in and contribute to the same economy, so what gives you the right to tell me how to live my life? What gives you the right to exclude me from the same opportunities you have? No one is forcing you to agree with gay marriage, no one is saying your religious beliefs are wrong or not valid. No one is forcing you to like lgbt people. But in a free democracy you can’t force me to live my life by your religious beliefs or by your interpretation of your religious text.Believing homosexuality is a sin is totally valid, and even though I disagree it’s not my place to tell you you’re wrong or to try and force you to believe what I believe. If that’s your religious belief, in my eyes I don’t consider that homophobic. But to actively seek out ways to make people like me live as second class citizens and to support laws that gives you more rights just because you’re heterosexual, that is homophobic and it spits in the face of a true democracy and weakens us as a country. History has taught that lesson to us over and over again with slavery and Jim Crow. Slave owners and those who supported the right to own slaves used scriptures from the Bible to justify the practice of owning African slaves:
you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. Leviticus 25:44-46
Laws were created to uphold a system that treated human beings as cattle primarily for financial gain but the aide of Biblical scripture allowed it to last 200+ years while supporters struck down every moral challenge to this barbaric system with (what they thought was) written approval from god. I’m using this example not to bash Christianity or anyone’s beliefs, but to show how problematic it can be when government makes legislative decisions based on a personal religious belief.At the end of our conversation he asked me how I felt about the news. I told him it was kind of bittersweet for me. I was elated to hear how the Supreme Court’s decision upheld Marriage equality which makes gay marriage legal in all 50 states, but my heart is still heavy knowing that the funeral of Rev Clementa Pickney (the pastor who was murdered last week by a white supremacist) is happening later today as well. As an out gay African American man my double minority identity presents dueling dichotomies all the time. Carrying this burden today means not fully participating in the joy and celebration that my white lgbt brothers and sisters are experiencing. But Clementa Pickney as a South Carolina senator believed in marriage equality. He along with the other members of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus were always on the side the lgbt community. That fact alone makes the sweet a lot less bitter, but it also reminds me that the fight for true equality isn’t over. It reminds me that we have to vigilantly protect each win because the same people who lost today aren’t going to change their ways and give up on their fascist crusade tomorrow. As soon as we think we’ve won and let our guard down, it gives the losers an opening to stop the momentum of our progress and a chance to destroy the good that we’ve built. Rev Clementa Pickney and the 8 other African Americans who died at the hand of a white supremacist serves as a stark reminder of that fact.
RIP Senator Reverend Clementa Pickney.