Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Making our way toward the front of the bus...

So Rosa Parks, the woman who chose not to give up her seat on a bus for a white man, died yesterday at age 92. She is considered a hero to many for having the courage to stand up to an unfair system & unwittingly helped further the Civil Rights movement significantly. Her courage was no doubt heroic, but today we find ourselves confronted with another issue that puts millions of American's at 'the back of the bus' and that is the struggle for homosexual equality.

Mainstream America didn't consider Rosa Parks a hero some 50 years ago, it took decades of gradual but often monumental change for our culture to see just how unfair and clearly un-Constitutional this system of having second class citizens was, and how courageous it was to stand up for such basic rights we now take for granted. This is true also today as those who are fighting for homosexual equality aren’t often considered heroic, even though they are.

Today it seems unimaginable that people would be so set apart simply because of their race — the color of their skin — simply because of who they are & were designed to be. Many today can't imagine how average people could have allowed such disgusting discrimination to take place just a few decades ago. Ironically, many of these same people can also find a range of justifications as to why a person who is aesthetically, romantically, & sexually attracted to the same sex should similarly be denied equality. There are a range of issues in which homosexuals are denied the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals, from the right to marry & have legal benefits as a couple, to the right to adopt kids or raise a family, to being protected from discrimination in employment, To being able to serve in the military, or even until recently being legally able to consent to sexual relations with one another.

It is every bit as heinous to discriminate against homosexuals, but they have their reasons. Religious values, homosexual relations are seen as a sin and they feel it is their duty to uphold 'God's law', no matter the separation between church and state, no matter the debate among theologians on what religion/god's intent on homosexual relations really is, no matter that many non-homosexuals do not abide by certain religious laws anyway. Homosexuality is seen as unnatural, in spite of the fact the American Psychiatric Association no longer considers homosexuality a disease or dysfunction, which more and more homosexual individuals and couples are proving everyday. The notion of homosexuality being unnatural also ignores the fact that homosexuality is practiced widely in nature even at the exclusion of heterosexual relations, and that there is increasing evidence to suggest it is biological or possibly a behavioral trait developed at very young ages among healthy and well adjusted children.

Many don't think we are stable enough to handle relationships, they selectively choose examples of promiscuous homosexuals, particularly famous ones that have been very unsuccessful at monogamy or emotionally healthy relationships totally ignoring the far greater number of promiscuous heterosexuals leading decidedly hedonistic and dysfunctional lifestyles, not to mention the fact that one in two heterosexual marriages fail and it's been like this for decades. There are also those who see this as a public health issue, because homosexuals are perceived to be far more promiscuous and more likely to have STD's like HIV/AIDS, and therefore it is a risk to society at large to allow us to lead our 'lifestyle' and encourage us to do so freely. This glosses over the fact that HIV is also passed among heterosexuals, and the incidence rate is growing, in 2003 there were nearly twice as many HIV cases in Blacks as in Whites yet most wouldn’t dare use this to justify banning sex or marriage among Blacks or any other minority group that was statistically at risk. It also ignores the fact that lesbians are inherently the safest group from contracting AIDS.

People need to understand there is a very important parallel here. Those who believed 'whites only' bathrooms & fountains, backrooms in cafeterias or restaurants, back of the bus seating, etc. was justified — they also had their reasons. It wasn't just an attempt to be cruel for the sake of being cruel. To many of the time it was a system put in place for many of the same reasons that homosexuals should be kept apart today: religion, morality, health, nature, tradition, decency, for the good of the children.

There is another very important parallel to consider. At one time interracial marriage as well as interracial sexual relations in general were forbidden by community standards and local and state laws. Those guilty of attempting to intermarry were often charged with adultery or fornication, just as in recent times sodomy laws have been used to persecute homosexuals. Fortunately the Supreme Court overturned laws against intermarrying, in Loving vs. Virginia the court ruled, "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the 14th Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law."

Unfortunately the Supreme Court has not yet made such a ruling on homosexual marriage, but they clearly should. As the court ruled, marriage is a basic civil right, fundamental to our existence, by banning gay-marriage they have effectively banned homosexual individuals the right to marry, period. One could no more argue that homosexuals have the option of heterosexual marriage than one could have argued people have the option to marry within their race therefore they don’t have a need for a right to intermarry.

Someday our society will take yet another step forward, as it becomes a more mainstream ideology that homosexuals should have the same rights & privileges to the pursuit of happiness as heterosexuals do. In that time, homosexual marriages/unions, while still not the ‘norm’, won’t seem any more unnatural as interracial marriages seem now. While not ideal, because racial prejudice still exists today and sexual prejudice will certainly exist then, it will still be a great achievement, and in that time those who are fighting for homosexual equality today, will be the ‘Rosa Parks’ of tomorrow.