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May This Be A Dawning, Not Just Of Marriage Equality, But Of A New Era Of Justice

by Alex Iwashyna

in Cultural Norms (that are abnormal), Progressive Politics

Today and tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on cases that will set the tone for civil rights for years, if not decades, to come.

On March 26, the justices will hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, on the issue of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The justices have agreed to hear argument on the question of whether the U.S. Constitution bars California from limiting marriage to unions of one man and one woman. They will also consider whether those defending Proposition 8 have the standing necessary to do so.

On March 27, the justices are set to hear U.S. v. Windsor, about whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 violates the U.S. Constitution. Another question to be argued is whether the Congress–acting through the House of Represenatives’ [sic] Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group–can defend DOMA even though the Obama Administration agreed with a federal appeals court that the law is unconstitutional. (source)

I cannot believe a reckoning like this is happening so soon. Nine states have already approved of same-sex marriage. Public opinion has gone from strong disapproval to supporting same-sex marriage by margins of 4 to 22 points depending on the poll. (source)

I have been fighting for gay rights for well over a decade. At first, it was letters to Congress and a Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car. I cheered when my church denomination ordained the first openly gay bishop, but I left my particular church over their decision to take a “middle of the road” view on the subject. A “let’s all be friends” and not really discuss anything when I thought the Episcopal churches would spearhead a change in Christianity. I was ashamed of them. I didn’t join another church because, even though their music was beautiful, they believed homosexuality was a sin and that is tantamount to homophobia. Eventually, I wrote how to be a Christian and support gay rights, and I hoped other Christians could see how the Bible does grow and should never be used as a weapon.

I remember when Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage went to the ballot in 2006. I stood the requisite number of feet away from the polling places and handed out Equality Virginia literature explaining why no one should support such a terrible amendment. We didn’t think we would win, not because I was a defeatist but because the vast majority of people did not believe in marriage beyond heterosexual couples. State after state had passed similar (although not as restrictive) bans since 2004 and only one state allowed gay marriage. (source) Sadly, we were right about losing, but everyone celebrated the over 1 million votes against it. I cried for both the people who stood with us and for all those whose rights were taken that day.

I also was asked that year if I was a lesbian while discussing my gratitude for being involved in the gay rights movement. I said: No, I happened to fall in love with a wonderful man. The woman never spoke to me again, but I didn’t stop my work. I did the math years before that conversation. If about 10% of the population is homosexual, they just didn’t have the votes. So I kept my Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car and stayed on the Equality Virginia newsletter and kept caring.

I’ll admit that I hardened against those who continued to promote homosexuality as a sin when so many gay teenagers committed suicide in 2010. But in responded with less rancor and more colors. I put up rainbow flags and rainbow stickers on our cars and tried to create some sort of beacon to the gay and lesbian teenagers living in my community. When other 4- and 5-year-old children taught mine that only a man and woman can marry, I didn’t appreciate intolerance being brought to the playground and into my home, but I sat my children down and explained on no uncertain terms that love is love.

Even on such an amazing day, not everything has changed in America. I know teens who can’t tell one or both parents because their parents will kick them out. I know kids forced out of the church they grew up in only to find another church where they are, at best, tolerated. And they think that’s what they deserve. I worry for all these families and churches because they how do they not see the broken hearts and homes in themselves and their neighbors.

However, so much has in these last few years. I don’t know what exactly happened except I wasn’t the only one walking out of churches, standing at polling places, speaking out. And my friends, who have been in the fight much longer than I, who had electric shock therapy to “get the gay out,” stayed true to themselves as they waited for the rest of us grow up. Today and tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the arguments for both sides, just as it has on every civil rights issue that America has faced. I pray our justice system will not fail us so we can begin to heal from the failures of our humanity towards the lesbian, gay and transgender community.

A Generation Of Justice

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Colleen @The Family Pants March 26, 2013 1

I said to my mom a few months ago that change happens when the youngest among us begin to stand up. With kids coming out in elementary school and showing their parents and grandparents the way. Or at least that’s part of it.

Wonderful post. Thank you this, Alex.

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Alex Iwashyna March 26, 2013 2

I agree. I had read that they think it’s the younger generations rising as well as thanks to those people brave enough to come out to friends and family because having someone you know who is gay or lesbian or transgender makes your more likely to fight for their rights. Our voices do carry even when we think no one is listening.

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Brook March 26, 2013 3

I feel that it is so commonplace now to see same sex couples on tv being portrayed as regular humans, that for many of these young kids (and some of us old ones) it really is nearly a non issue. Which is good in many ways. Although it can sometimes, I think, lead to a sort of blase nonvoting problem, because “obviously, we already know this stuff.”

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Nicole March 26, 2013 4

What amazes me is how anyone under the age of 30 can buy into such hate – we have had enough positive exposure in the media that being gay is not a “shock” and we all have that friend from high school that came out in college and no one was surprised. And yet I continue to “unfriend” people I thought I knew because they stayed in their conservative little home town and decided to do think what their parents and churches told them to think instead of drawing on their own experiences.

Here’s hoping the Supreme Court makes the right decisions, and drags the ridiculous, bigoted *ahem* southern masses right along with the rest of the country towards equality.

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Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo March 26, 2013 5

I pray the same, too.

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Skye March 28, 2013 6

You are so awesome for taking action on things you believe in. I hope one day, ALL kids hear from their parents that love is love. One thing that bugs me is how the news reports opinion polls about gay marriage. Yes, it’s great to know that more and more people are in favor. But this shouldn’t be used to create policy. Laws should make sure everyone is treated equally- even if the majority doesn’t agree.

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Amanda Jillian March 28, 2013 7

As a bisexual (technically pansexual) this has actually been an awakening time for me. I have found that while some friends are fine with gay rights are opposed to gay marriage, which has left me confused and insulted. Thank you for supporting!

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Erica March 31, 2013 8

I *so* know. I cannot believe that so much has happened so quickly in such a positive, life-affirming direction. My dad would just be completely shocked and so encouraged if he were still alive. Things were so different in 2002 when he passed away, it’s like a different country sometimes. :)

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