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Tag Archives: civil rights

What Comes After DOMA?

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On June 26th, seventeen years of national legalized bigotry ended. The United Sates Supreme Court ruled the Defense Of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, unconstitutional. This is a monumental development on both a political and personal level. Politically, we haven’t had a President (in any living person’s memory) who legalized discrimination. On a personal level, the repeal of DOMA means that it is no longer legal for only some people to have the full rights and privileges afforded to all Americans. Nationally, that is. It is still very legal for states to discriminate against an entire group of people.

Currently only 13 states* allow equal marriage. A couple who have married in these states and remain in these states for their entire lives have their marriages recognized on both a federal and state level. For anyone living or moving to any of the other states their rights are still greatly reduced. It is pretty clear by now that the SCOTUS and administration are happy to have the states figure this all out on their own. While there is no doubt that momentum is building across the country, and the numbers of states abolishing discrimination will continue to grow; this is no time to rest on our laurels. We know that there are many regions in this country that are not going to embrace this civil right. We know that there are states that have a very conservative and/or religious political agenda. We also know that money talks.

Boycotting states with legalized discrimination will fast track this movement. We can do this individually at varying levels of personal sacrifice. We can choose not to vacation in these states (perhaps the easiest form of boycott), we can choose not to move to or live in these states (perhaps the more challenging form of boycott) and we can do many things in between. We can refuse to do business with companies that choose to have their headquarters in these states. We can boycott corporations who donate money to politicians in these states. Companies can do more than issue press releases about their support of equality. They too can boycott these states; refusing to open offices, retail outlets or hold events. Once cleansing themselves of these affiliations, they can launch campaigns in which they brand themselves as ethical partners (it’s like being “green” but with many more colors of the rainbow.)

We know from experience that money is as powerful an influencer as public sentiment. When we shine the spotlight on these states, and (fairly) equate their stance to that of Jim Crow, we will make a difference. It’s Pride Week and there’s much to celebrate. It’s okay to bask in this victory for a bit. But when social media users switch back to their profile pics, relegating the red marriage equality symbol to a pop-art fixture, it’s time to put our money where are mouths (or avatars) are. It is a wonderful time to be living in these 13 states, but what of our brothers and sisters and our own sense of pride? Yes, many of us identify ourselves (geographically) by our state, but the world does not. The world sees us as Americans and rightly so. We are only as free as the next guy or gal. If there is anywhere in this country in which people are not treated equally under the law, we are all tainted. Think of this country as a meringue; one drop of egg yolk and we all fold.

*California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (and the District of Columbia)

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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Progress=Death?

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A man was targeted and killed for being gay; in Greenwich Village this week. People are killed all the time of course. But targeting someone because of being gay in the geographical home of Northeast gay liberation is shocking. There will always be people who are threatened by others. But it does seem that anti-gay violence has increased in recent months. Yes, it could be that the stories make the mainstream airwaves now (versus barely a mention in years past.) But the past year’s crime statistics in New York City would suggest that is not the case. Hate crimes have gone up, and presumably some of that hatred is aimed at LGBT people. Why, 44 years (almost to the day) after Stonewall does this violence exist?

How others live their life is of little concern to most people. It is only when our lives (inner or outer) feel weakened or threatened that we pick our head up and look around. Our negative thoughts and feelings about strangers come from our sense of instability. If we are not happy with our lives or ourselves it is (briefly) satisfying to malign others. We can call it bullying or bashing; its genesis is the same, and there is nothing new about it. Bullying/bashing is almost always perpetuated on those who are perceived as weaker. There was a time that by virtue of their position in society and actual laws regarding their personal lives. LGBT people were frequently victimized. A person who may fear for his/her job, housing, family connections, makes an easy target. Bullies could lash out without much fear of repercussion. Who would press charges? Even if charged, would society care? No doubt there were people sitting at home thinking; ‘well if they knew he was gay he must have been doing something ‘gay’ at the time.’ And that, for many people in olden times, was upsetting.

But this is 2013. Studies (for the past decade or two) have consistently shown that younger people (college age) don’t view LGBT people as an anomaly. Many teens now publicly identify as LGBT, in numbers and manner that children of even the 1970s couldn’t have even dreamed. LGBT people are openly serving in politics and the military (both rather straight-laced professions.) With the exception of a religious institution (or the Boy Scouts) it’s difficult to conjure a profession that would (lawfully) oust an employee for identifying as LGBT. It happens, there’s no doubt, but it’s not routine and it’s certainly not legal. LGBT people are now represented in television and film as something other than the object of ridicule. This is no small thing, as there are many subgroups that are still considered an acceptable punch line by virtue of their appearance.

So how could there be violence towards a people who have made such significant strides? Could it be that it is because of those strides that we are seeing this abhorrent behavior? Can it be that individuals who feel dissatisfied with themselves and their lives are as antagonized by the belief that someone is ‘getting what’s mine’ as they were/are by those who are seemingly weaker? Are attacks on people who are finally getting what’s rightfully theirs (civil rights) inevitable? Is it an inherent part of the battle, these innocent casualties that occur as we get closer to victory? Must Freedom Riders always be sacrificed for freedom?

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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We, The People

45th President

Our 44th President of the United States celebrated his (second) inauguration today. An African-American president (re)elected to the highest office in the land is something to note. That today is also a federal holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is poetic. Hopefully the overwhelming significance of this occurrence is lost on the youngest generation of Americans. But for some of us it is simply breathtaking. If you are old enough and young enough you were taught about the civil rights movement by teachers who were in the fight. You listened to a scratchy recording of the I Have A Dream Speech played by a teacher who had been there. You may have witnessed (through child’s eyes) the placards and marches for E.R.A. and the first stirrings of gay liberation. To have one’s first understanding of civics to be that of exclusion and assassination is profound.

Fast forward to today: a day when the Vice President of the United States was sworn in by Justice Sonya Sotamayer (an Hispanic woman), the inaugural invocation was given by Myrlie Evers (the widow of Medgar Evers) and the inaugural poem was written and read by Richard Blanco (an openly gay Cuban.) The master of ceremonies for this great event was Senator Chuck Schumer (a Brooklyn Jew.) Have we covered all hues of the rainbow?

It is easy and human to be frustrated by what often feels like glacially slow progress. We know what is right and grow impatient seeing it become a reality. But today, and perhaps only for today, all things seem possible. That a president of the United States of America would mention Stonewall in an inaugural address is simply awesome. That Stonewall is (finally) said in the same breath as Selma and Seneca Falls is remarkable. That it was said by a 51-year-old President is not surprising. My guess is that he too was taught about the fights of the 1960s by those who had fought. I’ve often wondered what happens to a generation born into a rash of assassinations, college takeovers, and fire hoses. Today I finally have the answer: they grow up to lead the free world.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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