As I have lived longer than others I have had the opportunity to witness the power of intolerance when exercised over time. Some times, the intolerance is in your face and obvious, where many would say immediately that is inappropriate behavior. The intolerance that is most destructive, though, is the kind that is ingrained in the way of thinking of others. It is much harder to identify it openly when it occurs and much harder still to change. It is like the slow erosive drip of a faucet.
Think back to the Jim Crow laws and maltreatment of African-Americans which were acceptable for so many years in certain circles. For those who don’t believe such behavior could occur, I would encourage you to watch or read “The Help.” It took a mountain of effort and many years to overcome ingrained behavior. And, I would add this behavior was tolerated and supported at the institutional level, including many white churches. It was not until pictures and newscasts which illustrated what was happening, did white America stand up and say this is not right.
I use this example with intent, as it occurred in our country and there are similarities to the words and deeds of many who have tried to deny or suppress the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender citizens, which are referred to as GLBT’s often in the press. I don’t necessarily like using an acronym like this, but it does save on typing and memory storage, so I will use it here out of convenience.
There have been several states that have successfully (or unsuccessfully, depending on your perspective) passed laws to deny the right of someone to marry a person of the same gender. North Carolina is debating the inclusion of this bill as of this writing. It is not a stretch to say a conservative, evangelical base of constituents is promulgating these proposals. In fact, there are national groups that have a “doc-in-the box” template which allow the state legislators who are considering such a move to draft a bill from already created language. So, you can document your intolerance in a faster and more economical way.
If you have not gleaned it thus far, let me state the obvious. I am against such laws that deny the same rights that other citizens of our country enjoy. In our country, it is discriminatory to treat people differently based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation. It does not get any clearer to me than that. So, to deny the rights of GLBTers to marry who they want is discriminatory and we should all stand up and protect the rights of every citizen. That is truly what we should fight for. The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law for the military should be and will be celebrated for years to come.
I fully recognize there are more evangelical constituents who do not believe as I do. That is fine to believe what you want – I support your right to believe the way you do. Yet, the critical point is one person’s beliefs should not infringe on another person’s liberties. People often cite our constitution to prove points. I have observed the people who tend to most cite the constitution do so in interesting ways to support their points – either to deny rights or support rights that are obsolete. Yet, one of the key tenets of our founding fathers was clearly a desire to have a separation of church state.
Our founding fathers or their parents left religious persecution in England. And, they also witnessed it in the colonies. They knew a government needs to protect the rights of citizens to worship as they see fit and not restrict those rights. The Salem Witch trials where women were deemed to have been blasphemers is a very good example of where religious persecution occurred. Women were tried and convicted not in courts of law, but by religious tribunals.
The evangelicals who may read this are undoubtedly saying God’s law overrides man’s law. Yet, I read in my bible that Jesus’ Golden Rule is “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I would also observe that Jesus tended to hang out with the disenfranchised more so than with church leaders advocating taking care of “the least of My people.” I do not mean to disparage church leaders as they are devout and well-intentioned, yet my point is I like to believe God is for all people regardless of sexual orientation. In my view, Jesus exhibited that by His willingness to spend time with all kinds of people.
Let me close with two points. First, our country’s greatness is based on its willingness to embrace our diversity – our melting pot of beliefs and cultures. We should celebrate our tolerance and identify intolerance when we see it. The Golden Rule begs for us to be tolerant people to all people not just heterosexuals.
Second, having seen the statistic that showed only 51% of adult Americans are married is telling. It is quite obvious we heterosexuals have not mastered the art of marriage, so we have no business telling GLBTers who they can and cannot marry. Marriage is hard enough as it is. So, if gay person loves someone and they want to marry, I will be there to throw the rice and wish congratulations. That is what America is all about.