I was pleased to read in March that a federal judge ruled that Michigan's law banning same sex marriage was unconstitutional. But, on Tuesday, April 22nd, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state's public universities.
As I respond to the contrast between the two rulings I can hear again, the voices of persons who disagree with my ally/advocacy of gay rights as a straight African American veteran foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement. I can no longer count the times I have heard words like this, "Gil, the gay rights movement for marriage equality is beginning to be successful, while the rights of blacks are being slowly curtailed, because one movement is predominantly white, and the other is predominantly black."
I remember my beginning to be concerned when last year as the Supreme Court made significant decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, it at the same time limited aspects of the Voting Rights act. With the judicial decisions on Marriage Equality and Affirmative Action in Michigan, today I am more than concerned, and I believe the Truth in Progress website, with its examination of racism and heterosexism at its centerpiece, provides a perfect opportunity for me to share the following:
1. I have sought to interpret the similarities between racism and heterosexism without engaging in the false discussion of comparing the differences between the injustices experienced by blacks and by gays. Thus, I do not want the distinctions between decisions made about Michigan's banning of affirmative action and a judge's ruling that its ban against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, to further divide the black community and gay community. I am writing this as my way of bridging rather than further dividing the two communities.
2. But, now more than ever, I call for a bold, brave and bodacious response from the gay rights community that challenges the racially insensitive at best, and racism at worst, words and actions of these moments. Today's New York Times lead editorial is this, "Racial Equality Loses at the Court" (April 23, 2014). What a magnificent impact it would have if individually and collectively, gay rights organizations followed the lead of the New York Times and circulated their own statements about what appears to be the "racial inequality" that is gaining ground among us.
3. I have expressed verbally and in print many times that the crucial justice struggle that faces us all is that of Economic Rights. It will require unity, not uniformity among all Justice Movements as we challenge the economic inequality that hovers over the poor as well as the middle class. Division among movements that seek equal rights for people of color and movements that seek equal rights for gays, will not equip us for the struggles that we must face together.
What a tragedy it would be if in 2014 this becomes the headline that describes our nation,"Marriage Equality Continues to Make Gains, While Racial Equality Loses".