Sometimes, when we’re watching an old film, or listening to classic rock, my husband will wistfully say, “I wish I had lived during the sixties.” To which I always respond — not I. In the 60′s, life was peace, love, and The Beatles for some. For others, it was Motown, protests, fire hoses, and hatred. And I always remind my husband — we probably would not have gone to college together and shared those free love good times. Also, it would have been illegal for us to be married up until 1967, when Loving v. Virginia finally struck down miscegenation laws. In the year 2000, the state of Alabama became the last state to repeal its law against mixed-race marriage. In the year 2000!
I am still so proud that America saw beyond race and chose the man I considered to be the best candidate — Barack Obama — to be the next President of the United States.
His victory sends a huge message to the world, that America is indeed a country of tremendous opportunity and promise. The struggles of folks like the Lovings — and Barack Obama’s own parents who surely faced judgment for their relationship in their time as well — have paid off in visible and real ways. We have come so far in terms of civil rights, and this past election was proof of that.
But in terms of equal rights, I believe that this country just took a real step backwards — in Arkansas, where a law passed to prevent unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents, in California with the passage of Proposition 8, and in my state of Florida where Amendment 2 passed. As someone who’s in a marriage that would have once been deemed illegal, I find the parallels between this country’s attitude towards interracial marriage and same-sex marriage to be dismaying and disheartening. And I am not alone — the late Mildred Loving felt the same way, and spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage before she passed away this year. “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about,” she declared.
Growing up in the Caribbean, I think I’ve heard just about every argument against homosexuality, every derisive slur, every religious condemnation. Sometimes it feels pointless to argue against people who believe insane things, who act like somehow being gay makes you less of a person. All I can do is assume that they didn’t grow up around gay people. They didn’t have gay relatives or friends. They couldn’t have — otherwise they’d understand that being gay is not a choice. It’s not something you wake up and decide to be, to be shocking or edgy. It is who you are born to be, same as I was born to be a black woman. They would understand that gay, straight, black, white, Latin, Asian, whatever you are – people are people, with the same emotions and needs that we all have.
Seeing the subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination that my gay friends and relatives have endured has had an effect on me. It’s made me jaded towards the “religious” arguments against homosexuality.
I can’t fully understand how someone could call themselves Christians, or spiritual, or “good people,” and say that they believe in a loving and just God, but then simultaneously pour down such fire and brimstone judgment on others because of their sexual orientation. It reveals stunning hypocrisy, in my view.
I have noticed that those who condemn homosexuality tend to pick and choose their Biblical verses very carefully. The verses chosen always come from The Book of Isaiah, or Kings, or Leviticus. Very seldom do these folks consider Matthew, chapter 7 verse 12, the Golden Rule, in their arguments — “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Or John chapter 8 verse 7 — let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.
I guess these people consider themselves to be without sin, and therefore capable of judging others. But to be really real with you — I don’t believe religious arguments should even matter in this arena. In a country that purports to embrace the separation of church and state, I honestly don’t get how the California Supreme Court decision that recognized same-sex marriage in California as an equal right could be overridden. It is disturbing and scary to me that the rights already granted to the citizens of California could even be taken away, even by a popular vote. I can’t imagine how it would make me feel, if Loving v. Virginia was somehow, someday revoked.
Marriage is such a special commitment. But according to information at DivorceRate.org, 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. There are drive through wedding chapels, so if you’re wasted and whimsical in Vegas you can make two bad decisions at once. I’ve known people — Catholics, mind you! — who have had two or three divorces. We watch and cackle at reality television competitions that steer couples towards the altar and end with a rose ceremony — and often, a ring and an on-bended-knee proposal of marriage. So it makes me laugh when straight people say things like marriage is sacred, when it’s been made into such a mockery by so many.
Then you’ll hear arguments like, “I don’t have a problem with gay people, let them be together… call it a civil union, just don’t call it marriage.” Why not? I don’t believe that allowing same sex couples to get married in any way diminishes my own marriage. How on earth would granting the right of a man and another man, or a woman and another woman to be legally joined, affect me? Quite simply, it doesn’t.
I agreed completely with Keith Olbermann’s special comment on Prop 8. I thought his passion was palpable, his words eloquent, and his meaning clear.
I believe that love is love. And people are people. I believe that if two consenting adults love each other and want to get married, they should be able to.
In the meantime, the Proposition 8 movement is provoking expression from wonderful and unexpected sources. Brilliant comedian and former Afrobella of the Week Wanda Sykes had spoken out humorously about gay marriage before, in her stand up special. But because of Prop 8, she is now one of very few black celebrities I can think of who has come out of the closet. Wanda just revealed that she herself has a wife. And I bet they are an adorable couple!
In Wanda’s own words: “Gay is not a choice. That’s like telling me I chose to be a woman, I chose to be black…I am proud to be a woman, I’m proud to be a black woman, and I’m proud to be gay. Now let’s go and get our damn equal rights!”
Anna Quindlen’s great Newsweek essay, The Loving Decision outlines the similarities, and reveals the inevitiability that someday soon, there will be a Loving vs. Virginia for same sex marriage. It’s only a matter of time. Someday, it will seem crazy that same sex marriage was once deemed illegal. Someday. In the meantime, we’re in for more protests and anger, heartbreak and struggle, here in America the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I am not a blogger of color alone in lamenting the passage of Prop 8 and Amendment 2. Jack and Jill Politics, Pam’s House Blend, Incredible Juju, Racialicious, Acts of Faith, That Girl Has Issues, Noctuary, and Simply Fred Smith all did wonderful, informative, eloquent posts examining race and it’s place in the passage of Prop 8. They are all worth a read. And FYI, I got the photo above from this pro-same sex marriage Facebook group.
I expect this to be the kind of post that provokes comments with vastly differing opinions. Please feel free to express yours, but I ask that you remain respectful in doing so.
What are your views on this very hot button issue, bellas and fellas?
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