Like most of you, I learned about Brown vs. the Board of Education in school. Current events incented me to refresh myself on its particulars last night.
For those who have forgotten, the decision reversed the doctrine of “separate but equal” under which the United States had been operating for more than half a century. The vote against “separate but equal” was 9-0, and in perhaps his most significant decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:
“To separate [some children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
The decision paved the way for changes in the way African Americans were viewed in this country – unfortunately, it took a whole bunch of bloodshed for meaningful changes to take place, and we’re still waiting for things to be truly “equal” for the races that populate our nation.
But, bottom line: The Supreme Court did the right thing in 1954. Will the justices do the same in 2013?
Wait a minute, you might say; a decision to help pave the way for allowing people who happen to be gay to marry one another can’t be compared to one that prevented a young Kansas girl from having to be bused miles and miles from her home so she could attend school with other children of “her kind.”
My response to you: Sure it can. Read this 1954 Supreme Court rationale, with my substitutions added, and tell me what you think.
“(Disallowing gay people to marry) has a detrimental effect upon the (people in question). The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating (people on the basis of sexual identity) is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the (gay) group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a (gay person) to (thrive). Such (discrimination) with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [adversely impact] the (emotional) development of (gay people) and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a (truly integrated society).”
I’ve written often about my feelings regarding society’s attitudes toward people who happen to be gay. As a teenager and young adult, some of my closest friendships were with young men who were gay and closeted, and I witnessed the pain they went through as they contemplated exposing who they really were to the people they loved most. Years later, I witnessed the same with a much-loved family member.
And in my opinion – and in the opinions of a majority of Americans – putting anyone through that type of misery is cruel, as being gay is clearly not a choice. It’s 2013, and with all due respect to friends and family members who feel otherwise, this nonsense needs to stop.
I was raised Catholic. I’m not sure exactly what flavor of Christianity I am anymore, but I know I’m a Christian. And I believe in that most basic tenet of the faith: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (“Judge not, lest thou be judged” is a good one, too.)
And while I respect the beliefs of people who feel homosexuality is something to be “healed” or “fixed” – some of whom are as passionate and fervent in their opinions as I am in mine -- I think they’re dead wrong.
The Old Testament includes a few lines that could be interpreted to mean God really hates homosexuality and would be inclined to punish it in a bad, fiery way. But in the Old Testament, a bunch of other really disturbing things happen as well, and no one is advocating for those to continue.
And, most importantly to me, Jesus says nothing about homosexuality. Nothing pro, nothing con. It doesn’t seem to be an issue to him.
And that, in my opinion, is as it should be. Judging someone on the basis of sexual identity is akin to judging a person on the basis of skin color. Or eye color. Or preferred brand of antiperspirant.
Believing homosexuality is a choice makes absolutely no sense: First why would anyone choose to risk the type of discrimination that’s still heaped on people who happen to be gay? And second, I’m heterosexual. And at no time in puberty or adolescence did I get out a yellow legal pad, write “pros” on one side and “cons” on the other, and decide to be straight.
One more curiosity: Because I was born heterosexual, I was allowed to marry, no questions asked, not one but two men I chose (not at the same time, obviously). Know what else? Most of the gay couples I know have been committed longer than I’ve been married to my current husband or was married to my first.
“Tolerating” gay people is not enough. A person’s sexual identity should not be a factor in denying him or her basic human rights.
And that's the basis of why gay people need to be allowed to marry. A few additonal pluses: It's all about commitment, which is all kinds of positive. It will further enhance the security of children born to or adopted by gay parents. And it sure won’t threaten my marriage. Or yours.
Let me leave you with this:
Not all that many years ago, it was illegal in several states for a white person to marry an African-American one. Some religious groups cited scripture in trying to uphold those decisions, too, saying God considered such unions unnatural and sinful.
Laws can change.
People can change.
Here’s hoping the Supreme Court does the right thing.