So there’s a buncha white guys who get together back in the day and talk a lot over home brewed ale and decide that they should declare their independence from Jolly Olde England.
The apparently fundamental rule that they came up with, “self-evident,” in 1776, was that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”
Of course, what they meant was that all white guys could pursue these rights. Women could not. Blacks could not. Pretty much everyone else was disenfranchised. Which might have been fine if they they established a country in which there were only white men. But they didn’t.
It took 100 years before black men could vote. Women couldn’t vote for 50 years after that. Equal rights in the form of being able to eat in the same restaurant, ride the same bus, even drink from the same water fountain, didn’t occur for blacks until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost two hundred years after those guys said that all men were equal. Clearly, George Orwell was right: some animals are more equal than others.
In this year, 232 years after they made this claim, a black man was elected President of the United States, in an election where women were also taken seriously as candidates for the first time in our history. You’d think this means that finally the words those white men said actually have some meaning.
When it comes to the issue of marriage, those words still mean squat. The sound defeat of civil rights this past election in the form of Proposition 8 in California, as well as measures banning gay marriage in Arizona and Florida show that even all these years later, equal rights do not exist.
Wikipedia defines marriage as “an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state, by religious authority, or both. It is often viewed as a contract.”
Anything in that indicate two women can’t get married? Two men? A man and a woman? A black and a white? A purple and an alien? Not that I can see. What our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters are asking for, is the right to love each other openly, and have that love and commitment acknowledged by the state to protect their civil rights to hospital visits, to benefits, to work, buy a house, have children, even divorce and separate, just like the white men do. Without the interference of others, well-meaning as they might think they are.
What astonishes me is who is coming out against the guarantee of equal rights to gays and lesbians–blacks and Mormons. Both these groups have existed outside the mainstream of white, Christian America for many many years–you’d think they’d be most sympathetic, the most committed to make sure no one was denied the equal rights they wanted as well.
But not so much.
My daughter and my friends and my co-workers and my clients shouldn’t have to leave this country– which prides itself on protecting the civil rights of citizens of other nations to the point we spend billions of dollars on war machines overseas — just to be able to exercise rights they were promised way back then by those white men. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For ALL.