The "Day After"* The Supreme Court Spent Two Days Discussing Marriage Equality for Same Sex Couples I promised myself last night that I would not wake up this morning (Thursday, March 28th) and sit at my computer seeking to write something about that I have read, heard and felt during the last 2 days. When I realized that today is March 28th, I remembered that in my "count down" to reaching the glorious age of 80, October 28, 2013, there are exactly 7 months left. Possibly, because of that fact, I share the following.
When I was a pastor in Denver from 1997 to 2001, a United Church of Christ clergyman, Phil Campbell and I led workshop discussions on race and racism. Phil, now living in Alaska is white and I am black. Those groups were mostly composed of white persons. Phil was bold, brave, and effective as he spoke, listened and responded to the groups.
Some of the white members revealed they had not yet confronted within themselves their unawareness, their insensitivity and their attitudes and actions that were at best, racially insensitive, at worst, racist. At the end of our workshops, Phil and I would debrief, and I would ask him, "Why were you so candid, clear and forthright as you confronted the insensitivity, sometimes racism of some of the white members of the group?" Phil, in his quiet, deeply sensitive and academically sound way, would say something like this, "Gil I had to". Phil as a white ally of racial justice said things to white persons, that would not have been heard as clearly if I as a black person had said them.
Here are some of the things that I feel compelled to "say" in this essay to "straight persons" as a straight person to other straight persons. Over the years I have learned from and been appreciative of white persons who have been consistent and effective as allies of black persons and our racial justice struggles. I have sought and seek to be a consistent and effective ally of gay persons and same sex couples as well.
1. We are on the edge of "changing without changing." I, as a black person am aware that racist language and legislation might change, but that change does not mean that persons and a nation have changed. We are in the process of altering our anti-Constitution language and legislation in regards to same gender loving persons, but that does not mean that we who are heterosexual have wrestled with and been healed of our less-than-positive assumptions, attitudes and actions regarding same gender loving persons. Martin Luther King once said, "A law may not make a man love me, but it will discourage him from lynching me." No law will evoke love, nor should we expect it to, but new laws if they do not bring forth a deeper respect for the humanity of those whom we have historically demeaned, will mean that future generations will have to engage in seeking to do again. What we thought we were doing in this time of significant change. I, as a straight person hope that for those Justices who need it, and the rest of us who do as well, we will begin to develop large portions of Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T for those who because of their gay sexual orientation have throughout history been made invisible, have been ignored and have been disrespected.
2. Maureen Dowd's op-ed in yesterday's New York Times was titled, "Courting Cowardice.” She wrote of the fact that one of the arguments against interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia, 1967) was this, "the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children fare in this world." Dowd, wrote, "a biracial child is faring pretty well in his second term in the Oval Office."
The presidency of Barack Obama, regardless of support or non-support for him, illustrates how foolish it would have been to delay eliminating prohibitions against interracial marriage until the social science analysis was completed. No logical and reasonable person, no matter how much their dislike, even hatred of President Obama, could say that the fact that he is the product of an interracial marriage makes him less than the president he would be if he were the product of a marriage between two persons of the same race. (I have written elsewhere about how the Obama presidency has revealed that racial insensitivity; ignorance and racism have not yet been relegated to the dustbin of history).
3. We who are the straight allies of LGBTQ persons and same sex couples, have a responsibility I believe, of not allowing the nation to be seduced by the admirable "sea change" that is taking place as attitudes and actions vis-à-vis homosexuality are changing. As winter in the nation slowly ends, we would do well to remember what Robert Frost said to the horse that was propelling him through the snow, "We have miles to go before we sleep.” We are on the journey toward full equality for same sex couples, but there are miles in front of us. Let us travel those miles with joy and determination, knowing that the end of the journey is not far away, even though the journey never ends.
But, after writing the above as a way of reminding and presenting a challenge to those like myself who are heterosexual (“straight"), I want to be clear about my hope that the Supreme Court will in its decision making leave no doubts about the Constitution-based legality of marriage equality for same sex couples. Two letters in today's NY Times say this much better than I can,
"The justices need to enforce our (Gays) rights regardless of those who oppose them."
"To advocate inaction, to let same-sex marriage 'propagate organically', is to condone inequality indefinitely."
* There will never be another "Day After" like this. Thus for me, the "sound of silence" is not an option.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T --TIP with jazz musician Eden Atwood From the FAIR IS FAIR in Montana Tour, September, 2011 Pinewood Studios, Missoula.