Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage Equality! For Now and Always




It’s been awhile since I’ve written about marriage equality here. And when I did, it was with a sizeable impatience for the glacial pace of the process – the process by which many of us come to bestow upon others the very same rights we leverage for ourselves. 

And cynic that I am, for awhile I almost began to believe that it would never come to pass. Understandable, I guess, since our opponents’ venom was fierce. But so was our will to strive on – on behalf of basic human decency. On behalf of the bedrock moral certainty that our LGBT sisters and brothers deserved no less legitimacy in the fabric of their intimate lives than we demand for ourselves.

And so at long last here we stand, with same-sex marriage legal across the nation. Torturous in its prologue, the reality’s been a long time coming. And it’s no exaggeration to say that the credit for this enormous achievement goes to millions of honest brokers - millions of strong-hearted lovers of fairness and equality - our countless sisters and brothers whose bodies, energies and voices coalesced in the tireless quest for everyone’s right to marry whomever we love. 

And whatever our own sexuality, we owe our bone-deep gratitude to all whose hearts were with us in the struggle, and most certainly to Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kennedy, whose courage, eloquence and adherence to our Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment ultimately won the day.





Make no mistake, that on the 26th of June, when the anxious, hopeful crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court exploded in raucous howls of unmitigated joy, I was right there with them in my warrior’s heart of hearts. And when the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus raised the National Anthem, I was pretty much brought to tears, in much the same way as my eyes welled over when I stopped at a red light on the day President Obama was first elected to office and saw a black man openly weeping in the vehicle beside me, America the Beautiful wafting softly from his window, a big American flag carefully unfurled across his dashboard.

So what does it really mean when we join our hands across cultures and races, straight, gay, old and young, to help “the moral arc of the universe” bend a little more precisely towards justice? In this day, this fateful hour, in the face of our myriad challenges as a nation and as a world, it means everything.





But now, as sure as anything, we hear vicious voices from a hard conservative right arguing that it’s quite within the purview of “religiously motivated” court clerks around the country to ignore the law – the Constitution, for God’s sake – and continue denying marriage licenses to LGBT partners.

Really?

What if  “religiously motivated” folks had simply refused to comply with Brown v The Board of Education? The Voting Rights Act?

More pertinently, what if folks had simply chosen to adhere to their “religious beliefs” and continued to deny blacks and whites the freedom to marry even after the Court decided in favor of the Lovings in Loving v. Virginia, the landmark 1967 case concerning the white Richard Loving and black Mildred Jeter. They were legally married in Washington DC only to be later arrested on race-mixing felony charges in their home state of Virginia. In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that their right to marry was protected by law.

How is this relevant to the “religiously motivated” argument for denying same-sex marriage equality now?

Consider this: There are still people alive and kicking who percolate with the particular brand of racism which holds that black people were created by God as inferior beings to whites and that any attempt to “mix” the races flies in the celestial face of God’s eternal plan. In fact, many of this “religiously motivated” ilk believe in the supposed origin of black folk as the biblical children of Ham. Ham, of course, was the renegade son of Noah who was cursed by God for looking upon his drunken, passed-out father’s naked body. 

In fact, some accounts hold that Ham sodomized his besotted dad, said curse being levied - even now - as a punishment upon the current-day descendants of Ham. How? In the form of our dark skin, of course, which marks us, by the hand of God no less, as the eternally blighted progeny of Noah’s sinful son.

That being the notion, let’s just suppose some zealous court clerk somewhere (in Texas, perhaps?), based on religious belief in the woeful story of Ham, decides to refuse a marriage license to a mixed-race couple? After all, what about the mongrel children of black-white couples? Does the world need any more of them - partially righteous, partially lesser? Clearly, that's the repulsive thinking that undergirds this view. 

According to the conservative logic of the knuckle-dragging crowd, some of whom aspire to the White House in 2016, it seems that this sort of bigotry resulting in the refusal to grant marriage licenses based upon so-called “religious motivation” - in this case, tied to race - might be wholly justifiable. 

Twisted and hateful, full up to their rolling eyeballs with misguided religious bile, apparently they’d get to deny marriage licenses to mixed-race couples and still retain their jobs. The question becomes, then, how is this different from denying same sex couples marriage licenses based also upon “religiously motivated” grounds? It’s not different, of course, and that’s the point.

Clearly, last Friday, June 26, 2015 a majority in the Supreme Court made themselves abundantly clear on the matter of marriage equality and their decision, coincidentally, reflects the affirming sentiment of our country by and large. It’s settled law now. The law of the land, as they say.





But what of the dissenting judges, and most particularly the heteronormative, tone-deaf mouth-breathers Scalia and Clarence Thomas? As has been noted by others, Thomas would not be married to his white wife today had it not been for the Court’s 1967 decision in favor of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter.

The fact is, I certainly don’t always agree with the Supreme Court’s decisions. But that surely doesn’t mean that I feel free to retreat into a contorted permutation of religious extremism in order to ignore their rulings with the kind of myopic fervor that’s fueled bigots throughout time. But that’s just me, I suppose.

The truth is this. As much as I celebrate the Court’s ruling on marriage equality, this is simply not yet the time to relax our resolve. Unfortunately, bigoted souls and minds aren’t changed by judicial wisdom, it seems, no matter how dulcet the flavor of hard-won victory at the time.




Still, I was watching the evening news that night with my 91 year old mom, who's the learned, lettered embodiment of progressive wisdom and grace, when the darkness opened its soul over President Obama’s White House robed in a vivid display of rainbow-colored lights. A kindred voice in the background was waxing philosophical about life and family and goodness and love. We smiled, my mom and I, in a mutual observation: at the end of the day, there’s something singular about justice – its fragrance, its essence, its multifaceted beauty – that settles ever so sweetly upon the mind and in the heart.








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photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/58301516@N00/3779346966">Illegal Marriage Ceremony - Same Sex Marriage Rally, Queens Park, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 090801</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>