Archives - November, 2008

13 Nov 08

Gay rights should have support of blacks


Published: November 12th, 2008 12:30 AM

Sometimes, progress carries an asterisk.

That’s as good a summary as any of a sad irony from last week’s historic election. You will recall one of the major story lines of that day was the fact that, in helping make Barack Obama the nation’s first black president, African Americans struck a blow against a history that has taught us all too well how it feels to be demeaned and denied. Unfortunately, while they were striking that blow, some black folks chose to demean and deny someone else.

Last week, you see, California voters passed an initiative denying recognition to same-sex marriages. This overturned an earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court legalizing those unions. The vote was hardly a surprise; surely there is nothing in politics easier than to rouse a majority of voters against the “threat” of gay people being treated like people.

But African Americans were crucial to the passage of the bill, supporting it by a margin of better than 2 to 1. To anyone familiar with the deep strain of social conservatism that runs through the black electorate, this is not surprising either. It is, however, starkly disappointing. Moreover, it leaves me wondering for the umpteenth time how people who have known so much of oppression can turn around and oppress.

Yes, I know. I can hear some black folk yelling at me from here, wanting me to know it’s not the same, what gays have gone through and what black people did, wanting me to know they acted from sound principles and strong values. It is justification and rationalization, and I’ve heard it all before. I wish they would explain to me how they can, with a straight face, use arguments against gay people that were first tested and perfected against us.

When, for instance, they use an obscure passage from the Bible to claim God has ordained the mistreatment of gays, don’t they hear an echo of white people using that Bible to claim God ordained the mistreatment of blacks?

When they rail against homosexuality as “unnatural,” don’t they remember when that same word was used to describe abolition, interracial marriage and school integration?

When they say they’d have no trouble with gay people if they would just stop “flaunting” their sexuality, doesn’t it bring to mind all those good ol’ boys who said they had no problem with “Nigras” so long as they stayed in their place?

No, the black experience and the gay experience are not equivalent. Gay people were not the victims of mass kidnap or mass enslavement. No war was required to strike the shackles from their limbs. But that’s not the same as saying blacks and gays have nothing in common. On the contrary, gay people, like black people, know what it’s like to be left out, lied about, scapegoated, discriminated against, held up, beat down, denied a job, a loan or a life. And, too, they know how it feels to sit there and watch other people vote upon your very humanity, just as if those other people had a right.

So beg pardon, but black people should know better. I feel the same when Jews are racist, or gays anti-Semitic. Those who bear scars from intolerance should be the last to practice it.

Sadly, we are sometimes the first. That tells you something about how seductive a thing intolerance is, how difficult it can be to resist the serpent whisper that says it’s OK to ridicule and marginalize those people over there because they look funny, or talk funny, worship funny or love funny. So in the end, we struggle with the same imperative as from ages ago: to overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

But if last week’s vote taught us nothing else, it taught us that persistence plus faith equals change.

And we shall overcome.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Readers can reach him via e-mail at Pitts will be chatting with readers every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. on

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5 Nov 08

Let me preface this article by saying that this is a very controversial topic, for which I make no apologies. The topic: gay rights, more specifically and timely, gay marriage.

I know what you’re thinking, “Oh Great! Another one!” Well, sort of, but I hope I can clarify some important issues.

This is not an argument. This is not an opinion. This is not a moral issue. This IS a human rights issue. This is a citizens’ rights issue. This is a state and federal contract law issue. Applying laws against gay rights is enforcing bigoted hateful policy. Does that give you any idea where I stand? :)

So, deeper into the issue, other than just feelings, I’d like to point out some of the “arguments” against gay rights:

  1. God made One Man and One Woman to marry – to this I’d like to point out one of our country’s deepest and most important foundries: the separation of Church and State. One’s religious views should not dictate legal policy. The church does not dictate the protections and rights given by marriage, those privileges and rights are given by civil law.
  2. Gay Marriage will damage heterosexual marriage – with nearly 50% divorce rate in the United States, I can’t see that Gay Marriage is going to affect heterosexual marriage. What is affecting the institution of marriage in the US is the lack of commitment to one’s spouse. Will gay marriage damage the institution because more men will say, “Well, now that I don’t have to marry a woman…”? This is a weak argument.
  3. If we allow gays to marry, next we’ll be welcoming bestiality, polygamy and incestuous marriage – so, one at a time here: Bestiality, are they serious about making having sex with animals the equivalent of two committed and loving individuals wanting to contractually join their lives? What tax benefits are being kept from folks practicing bestiality? Do they feel hurt that a doctor won’t let them visit their favorite animal while it’s at the vet? Where’s the association here? Polygamy, the problem for me here isn’t a moral issue, I can’t argue with anyone who wants to punish themselves by having more than one spouse! Don’t we have enough marriage woes without adding multiples? However, I would bet that the basis of Polygamy is actually ownership. However, I could be swayed on this one if women were also allowed to have multiple husbands. We are equal opportunity after all! But, since this argument is predominantly coming from Mormon fundamentalists, I highly doubt “equal opportunity” has anything to do with it. So now the fun one, allowing brothers and sisters (immediate family members) to marry and procreate. Well, other than this being a “moral” issue, I think the real argument here is actually for health and welfare of our species! Incestuous activity breeds fundamental flaws into the genes of any species. Gays can’t actually breed, so I hardly believe that health and welfare issue can be assimilated.
  4. DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) protects traditional marriage: How can this law be taken seriously? So, I can sign a binding business contract in Maryland and that contract will still be in force in the state of Washington, but yet a marriage contract between my partner and I can never be recognized? Incorporating your company in Delaware allows you to still maintain that corporation while your entire operation is technically based in Chicago. So, we haven’t addressed the legality of tax shelters across state boarders, but it’s still a good idea that legitimate, loving couples who wish to protect one another in a committed long-term relationship should be completely barred from any legal rights or protections. (P.S. Thank you President Clinton)
  5. Why would we give gays special rights? SPECIAL rights??? What’s special about equality? What’s special about allowing equal access to all citizens? Is it so unreasonable to believe or to understand that homosexuals are citizens? That we are in the Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence?Giving gays a true minority status is unnecessary – Is there a minority group in the USA right now who are more abused than our homosexuals? Who are more discriminated against? Are we resisting the minority status because we’re worried about an equal opportunity or the ability to participate as full and equal citizens because we don’t want more “special” rights for more citizens? I would guess the same people resisting minority status for gays are the same people who really don’t believe blacks or Hispanics should have “special” treatment either. After all I’m sure they are completely behind the American ideology of capitalism and “pulling yourself up by your boot straps”.

I hope if you’ve ever said to yourself, “This argument doesn’t involve me,” that you’ll truly consider helping this next big step toward genuine equality. If you believe it doesn’t involve you, then choose to speak up for those who are being treated so unfairly. Open your hearts and your minds to the possibility that THIS discrimination is the first step toward another segregated society. Segregated right in front of your eyes! If you cringe at the thought of slavery, if you squirm just thinking about the atrocities inflicted on our Native American tribes, then perhaps you can open up to the possibility that this situation is NOT all that different… it’s just modernized. As we look back on those terrible times in our nation’s history, will we also look back and so easily see the similarities to this one?

Life: give us the rights we’ve earned by being citizens of our country to live openly, honestly, and safely

Liberty: give us the freedoms granted to our straight counterparts, the freedom to fully participate in legal system

and the Pursuit of Happiness: give us the right to “live happily ever after”, happiness is only truly attained by living comfortably, feeling unthreatened, loved.

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