Monday, June 29, 2009

Equal rights are not special rights

Essential reading from Frank Rich on Obama and Stonewall.

It’s a press cliché that “gay supporters” are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be. Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of Stonewall, he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places.

It's useful to be reminded that gay men and women were considered something less than human 40 years ago, and that we've come a long way from the days when "homosexual sex was still illegal in every state but Illinois [and] it was a crime punishable by castration in seven states."

But Rich is also correct that full equality in the eyes of the law has to be the goal, and that we need to get there now.

“There’s a perception in Washington that you can throw little bits of partial equality to gay people and that gay people will be satisfied with that,” said Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for “Milk,” last year’s movie about Harvey Milk, the pioneering gay civil rights politician of the 1970s. Such “crumbs,” Black added, cannot substitute for “full and equal rights in all matters of civil law in all 50 states

I, like many people, have a tendency to say that as an ally the politics are not my own, and that there's only so much I can do without co-opting someone else's autonomy and identity. But to settle into this mindset is to no longer be an ally.

This is not a question of one community against another.

This is a question of basic human rights.

This is not a question of tolerance.

This is a question of equality.

This is not a question of belief.

This is a question of justice.

I know too many good, well-meaning people who allow themselves to ignore the human consequences of legalized bigotry.

Justice and equality has to be for everyone. Now.

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