Our Socially Accepted Prejudice
Wednesday - May 13, 2009
Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts and now, Maine - five states where it is now legal for same-sex couples to wed; five states that have fought to give all their citizens equal rights under the law; five states with lawmakers and judges courageous enough to do the right thing.
And New Hampshire - and possibly New York - are ready to do the same.
I really thought there was a chance this year that Hawaii would join the ranks of the enlightened with passage of the civil unions bill, but it was not to be - not yet.
Those celebrating the demise of this year’s efforts to eliminate discrimination are well-meaning and sincere. They believe they speak God’s truth when they say we should treat people who are not like us differently.
But think about how many times in our past God has been invoked to keep entire groups of people down. We have come a long, long way from the days when religion was used to prevent men and women of different races from marrying. That particular taboo was broken once our American sense of equality and justice finally prevailed. It took a long time, but change was inevitable.
So it will be with same-gender unions. It may take a little while longer, but it will happen.
Our Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. There is no clause that excludes homosexuals.
Our Constitution requires equal protection of the law for all citizens, not just the straight ones.
I have faith in our state. We were one of the first to put the stamp of approval on the federal Equal Rights Amendment for women (which ultimately failed to win ratification). We were early in our support for a woman’s right to control her body and make her own medical and reproductive choices. Our modern Hawaii Democratic Party was built by men and women who refused to be treated as second-class citizens just because they were children of immigrants and not part of the white power elite.
We are so proud of our multi-hued children, our racial tolerance, our mixed-plate heritage. We trumpet our aloha spirit to the world. Why are we refusing to extend that same aloha to gays and lesbians?
For those of you who argue that it is a moral issue, I say this: I find it morally offensive to say to gays and lesbians, “You can be my neighbors, you can be my friends, you can work in my office and go to my school and fight beside me to protect our nation - as long as you don’t get married. As long as you don’t expect equal treatment. As long as you know your place.”
The answer lies, I believe, with our youth.
Polls are showing that most people between the ages of 18 to 30 believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Our young people are wiser than their parents. It was they who believed we could put a black man in the highest office in the land. And with their newly discovered political muscle, they made it happen. They will be the ones who fully and soundly reject our last socially accepted prejudice. It didn’t happen this year in Hawaii, but it will. It will.
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