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Marriage, authenticity, hope and the struggle for equality
Published Thursday, 19-Aug-2010 in issue 1182
My uncle often told me that equality is not achieved in a single event, or a single piece of legislation or even a single court victory, rather it is the drumbeat of authenticity and the persistent work of building relationships
.In the more than three decades since Harvey’s voice was silenced by violence we have seen the fruits of our struggle for equality in all the out elected officials who have followed in his footsteps and in the cities and states where we have woven our basic rights into daily life. Yet we are also reminded with each setback, of not only what still needs to be achieved but of all those that we still need to reach out to, who would deny us of our very liberty and our ability to share in the pursuit of happiness.
Having the honor to serve on the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which brought together Ted Olson and David Boies in the landmark Prop 8 lawsuit, I was afforded the opportunity to hear first hand the brilliant and stunning facts presented at trial on both the promise of equality and the myths and lies used, time and time again to suppress those rights. Not just for the GLBT community, but the same stream of distortions and fear based untruths that has been used against nearly every other minority group. This trial transcript is truly one of the great learning tools that we now have to open minds, to reach out to all those groups who had been diminished and denied rights previously themselves and to connect and continue the work of building relationships with those that have been unwilling or unable to see us, authentically as equals.
Today Harvey’s message of economic power also remains relevant. This was also the message of Martin Luther King who famously said in 1962, “You can’t win against a political structure where you don’t have the votes...but you can win against an economic power structure when you have the power to make the difference between a merchant’s profit and loss.” Yesterday my uncle and GLBT Californians stood up to Coors. Today we stand up to Target and Best Buy and we do that not alone, but we must ask our allies-our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family to join us in a show of economic justice.
In the early 80’s as a college student I envisioned employment non-discrimination protection for our community as the law of the land one day, and it is a nothing short of a great moral failing of our nation to have not achieved that by now. However the most amazing part of my remembering, when I was in the very first flush of youthful love, filled with the magic and poetry of our collective dreams and able to glimpse in the impossible, was of us being joined by our loved ones in the union of our souls. Ah, but although we could glimpse that fantasy of marriage every now and then, the paradigm of the time gave no nourishment, no food, no sip of water for that dream to become even a hope. It is just beautiful to know we have our GLBTQ brothers and sisters having not only hope of that, but six states and a handful of nations where it is a reality
Looking back, this is such a strong example of a harshly diminished and put down community, one that was being consistently told our love was not only not worthy, but was wrong, an example of a communities courage to rise and nourish ourselves. That was done with the extreme odds of a vast and diverse community comprising all walks of life, all ethnic groups, all faiths, all political sides and all these things working against us except for the common element of the love we shared. That shared “minority love” was strong enough to pull us together and to break out of the closets that we were put and put back in and beat up in - and get to the promise we see today.
We should feel the power of our love as love is as common as the sun to the day and reaches everyone. When we share who we are and the love we hold dear with everyone in our lives then we shift the majority who may no longer need to understand anything other than there is love here and that is worthy of supporting. When people do not know us they can more easily hate us. King said back in 1958, “Hate begets hate; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate, but to win friendship and understanding.”
Authenticity, engagement and hope - we are renewing all three together from both our wins and our losses.
For all those that continue to oppose equality, be it marriage, be it employment non-discrimination, be it serving in the military, we all have a role in engaging and shifting their views on the very personal one to one levels that have always been what sustains freedom.
So along with the court battles, the legislation, the laws and the demonstrations, we must tell the people in our lives, in our communities, our family, our friends, our neighbors, our customers, our co-workers, our parents friends and our children’s friends .We must continue to come out everyday and share our stories, clearly not as publicly as the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, but with that same conviction and passion. Yes, some of us will lose friendships, clients and customers but more of us will change minds! When we share our authenticity, when we engage everyone, we not only give the next generation hope but we nourish ourselves with hope. The hope that was so dear to my uncle. That is where equality can be sustained and where enduring rights that come from societal change are achieved!
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