Forum

Gay marriage laws violate civil rights

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On Tuesday, in the shadow of the Presidential election, 11 states passed bans on gay marriage. Following in the footsteps of Missouri and Louisiana, these states violated basic civil rights and cast discrimination into law.
This new wave of state-sanctioned homophobia has a strong connection to our country?s history of institutionalized racism. Many of the arguments thrown around condemning same-sex marriage had their initial run with the movement to ban interracial marriage. How can we as a country condemn racism, and then turn around and use the same historical arguments against race to take away the rights of gay citizens?
Same-sex couples have the fundamental right to get married and to enjoy all of the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples.
In response to the recent bans on gay marriage, Julia Carroll, a senior civil and environmental engineering student, as well as a co-president of ALLIES (CMU?s GLBT/straight alliance), told me, ?I almost cried when I found out, especially when I realized that eight of the 11 states also outlawed civil unions, domestic partnerships, common law marriages, etc. It scared me to find out how much of this country is so bigoted.?
Having grown up half the time in Missouri and the other half in Massachusetts, two opposite poles on the gay marriage issue, I have family members on both sides of the debate.
When I first heard the news that Massachusetts had legalized gay marriage I started crying and laughing because I was so happy and proud. When I heard the news that Missouri, my other half, had voted 71 percent in favor of a ban on gay marriage, I couldn?t say a word. My mother called and apologized on behalf of our state. We were both stunned.
I can imagine, though, people in my own extended family who probably voted in favor of the ban. I have a face for people on both sides of the issue. My conservative grandfather could easily have voted for it, and though I disagree strongly with many of his views, I still love him. I can see that he does have good in him, underneath all of the ugliness he chooses to voice.
These homophobic bans were not passed by legions of fanatics banging their drums. They were passed by a large group of regular people who have somehow convinced themselves that homosexuality is not natural and that same-sex couples should be treated as second-class citizens.
Not long ago in this country, many otherwise good people similarly let themselves get lost in hateful justifications for racism. It wasn?t until 1967 that the Supreme Court struck down all laws banning interracial marriage.
On Tuesday night, Jon Stewart from the Daily Show tried to bring some humor into this difficult gay rights issue. After counting off all 11 of the states newly banning gay marriage, he sadly joked that now, in Mississippi, you can?t even ?look at dudes.?
Even while Stewart was trying desperately to bring some sort of humor into this shocking situation, I couldn?t help but think about how just 50 years ago, in the South, black men couldn?t even look at white women. If a black man so much as looked at a movie poster of a white woman, he risked getting himself into serious trouble.
Rep. John Lewis (D?Ga.), a leader of the black civil rights movement, wrote in The Boston Globe last year, ?We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I?ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.?
Carroll stated that in the campus office of SoHo (Carnegie Mellon?s Resource Center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Concerns), students have hung up a poster with a black and white picture of two water fountains right next to each other, one labeled ?straight? and the other labeled ?gay.?
Instead of falling into the trap of repeating our past, we need to stand up and demand equal rights for every citizen in our country. We have come too far in the civil rights movements to fall backward into a homophobic funk. Carroll commented, ?I don?t understand how people don?t see the parallels between now and forty years ago. This is becoming the civil rights movement of our generation.?