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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Equality Through The Centuries

Dear folks,

I'm going out on a limb here with a type of greening post on equality.  I've been keenly following all of the back and forth on the issue of marriage equality and non-discrimination as it relates to the gay community.

For the record I'm committedly straight and in a loving relationship with a wonderful guy.  I have numbered among my friends who are like family some who are gay.

The passionate defense of anti-gay efforts had me wondering just when all those people - particularly women and people of color - learned the history of when they got rights under our Constitution.  So I went and did some research.

I hope you find this opinion piece useful, thoughtful and worth reading and sharing.

. . .

Equal Rights Under the Constitution

A discussion of how rights have been applied.

"Not until the 1970s did the Court extend to women the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws"."

The current debate over equal rights for the LBGT community, particularly with regard to marriage and non-discrimination brings to my mind the whole history of how our Constitution's "rights" (to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) have been interpretted down through the centuries.

All along the way, any non-white, non-male had to prove they had the same rights as the predominately white Anglo-Saxton founders of the revolution.

The lead-in above really illustrates just how difficult it was for any non-white, non-male to not only get the 'right' but also to keep it.

From time to time, the courts have held that there is no 'right' to non-discrimination under the law.  Each group had to "prove" they were some how, in some way, eligible for this 'right'.

"The Constitution of 1787 was neutral with regard to race and sex, thereby leaving the way open to equal protection under the law for women and racial minorities."

But the problem was there were many vested interests (power and money) who wanted the pre-constitution status quo kept in place.

The pre-revolution British use of slaves customarily dictated that no Christian could be kept as a slave and therefore forbade the preaching and conversion to Christianity of any slave.

The monetary benefit to the British and then the Americans was paramount to the continued success of growth and prosperity of the countries.

In a similar vane women were seen as incapable of self-rule.

"Under the common law legal doctrine known as coverture, a married woman in Great Britain's North American colonies and later in the United States had hardly any legal existence apart from her husband. Her rights and obligations were subsumed under his. " --

Women did not get the right to vote until 1919 and did not get "equal protection" under the law until the 1970s.

When Chinese immigrants added to the labor force in the 1800s and were tolerated, then needed and then vilified when sentiments shifted to anti-Chinese laws including the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act and was not repealed until 1943 --

Most people are familiar with the Japanese American Internment Order.  American citizens of Japanese ancestry including whole families were put into prison camps.

"In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to study the matter.  On February 24, 1983, the commission issued a report entitled Personal Justice Denied, condemning the internment as unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than real military necessity." --

While all of the racial discrimination is well known because of the civil rights movement, it was not until 1967 that "1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates."  --

Many whites twisted any biblical references to race as "The offspring of interracial unions are no longer God's intended creation."

The 1967 Supreme Court ruling arose out of a lawsuit by an interracial couple who were given the choice of prosecution (punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years) or leaving the state of Virginia. (Loving v. Virginia) under Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (1924) State legislature of Virginia (SB219)

"5. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person."

It also expanded the scope of Virginia's ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation law) by criminalizing all marriages between white persons and non-white persons.

So now we are at a point in time, and what will be history, over another denial of rights.  It is not a stretch to equate the desire for gay marriage to be legally recognize in the same manner as interracial marriage.

In the original prosecution of  the Lovings the trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, wrote:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

No sincere person holding Christian beliefs wants to be associated with such cruel and discriminatory uses of law in our past, but it is also important to keep in mind that the so called Christian Identity groups associated with White Supremacist theories all use the bible as the basis for their hate.  Some of these haters are in the frey of anti-gay marriage rhetoric.

Recently the anti-gay-rights group has couched the desire for equality as a grab for more than equal rights.

On the subject of marriage equality the ultra conservative "Christians" claim the recognition of gays to have a legal marriage would take away the meaning of marriage.

At its base marriage, in the United States, is a legal contract with rights and responsibilities assigned to both parties.  They can sue and be sued under these rights and responsibilities.  The IRS for instance can go after either spouse for the tax obligations of the other with no more basis than they are/were married during the time period in question even if one spouse did not know or have control over the money.

Marriage for many people is also a spiritual contract before their God under the authority of not only their religious leader (Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Imam etc.) but it is also a contract permitted by state and US law which gives the religious leader the legal authority to marry within their congregation.

Eventually the right to a legal marriage will be extended to the gay community because in the end it is a legal contract.

But in the mean time those calling themselves Christians who oppose this inalienable right, use foolish-sounding and even less valid arguments than "because I said so."

Everything from incorrect Biblical quotes to outlandish legal arguments that the recognition of gay marriage would somehow cause traditional couples to forgo marriage because it was not 'sacred' anymore and did not focus on the sole purpose of marriage - procreation.

Currently Oklahoma is appealing an overturning of its gay marriage ban law.  "The Alliance Defending Freedom cited courts and anthropologists, saying children are better off in a home with a mother and a father. It said traditional couples would be less likely to marry, or stay together, if marriage became a genderless institution not focused on procreation."

So the question for each individual to consider is how, when the granting of a right they now enjoy to another group, that grant and recognition somehow takes the extant right away.

If a traditional marriage, a hopefully loving bond between a man and a woman, is damaged or destroyed because their gay neighbors are married, what was the basis for the marriage in the first place?


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

1 comment:

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

The Right Reverend Robinson has similar thinking to my post here.