Same-sex marriage is surely a civil right

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Posted on August 23, 2006 - 2:57pm by Anonymous.

USA Today
Wed Aug 23, 7:11 AM ET

Same-sex marriage is surely a civil right
By Sheryl McCarthy

As the debate rages over whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, I'm disappointed whenever I hear other African-Americans say, "No, they shouldn't."

We're more opposed to same-sex marriage than whites are, according to a June survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which found that 65% of African-Americans are against it compared with 53% of whites.
I understand the reasons.

African-Americans are overwhelmingly Christians, and many of us believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Beyond that, even suggesting that the struggle of gays and lesbians for the right to marry is similar to our own civil rights struggle is often perceived as an insult.

I've heard the most racially militant blacks argue that the gay struggle is different from our own because we have no choice about being black while gays can choose whom they want to sleep with. This reasoning persists despite growing scientific evidence that people's sexual orientation is innate and that they don't choose it any more than they choose their sex or race.
Some African-Americans also argue that gays and lesbians were never slaves or victims of a system designed to keep them in their place, and that while homosexuals have the option of keeping their sex lives private, few blacks can hide their race.

A comparable struggle

Even some civil rights leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, have tried to put distance between the black and gay struggles. And black ministers, among them the Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, have led protests to fight efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.

The fight for gay rights is like our civil rights struggle, however, and it's hypocritical for groups that have had to fight long and hard to win their own constitutional rights to turn around and try to deny them to the next group. We're seeing this in the descendants of immigrant groups that were despised and vilified during their early days in this country, and that now want to deny recent immigrants the means to become lawful citizens.

This hypocrisy was apparent to me as I was growing up in a black Baptist church. I routinely heard ministers condemn gays from the pulpit, even though half the male choir members, the choir director, the flower arranger and plenty of other male church members were obviously gay. The church would have had difficulty functioning without them.

Because it's difficult enough to be black in this country, I know that black communities would prefer not to have to deal with the added stigma society attaches to homosexuals, and the obvious link to HIV and AIDS. And with stable heterosexual marriages rare enough in black communities, some African-Americans think that encouraging same-sex marriage would only complicate the situation.

Nonetheless, the main argument used against same-sex marriage is that the Bible says it's wrong. We point to the Scriptures, to the story of Adam and Eve (and the absence of Adam and Steve), to the retribution inflicted on the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, and to depictions of male-on-male sex in Leviticus and Romans as being so perverse that it warranted death.

I won't attempt to argue with the Scriptures, other than to say they reflect the mores and biases of the times they were written. And just as there are Scriptures ordering slaves to obey their masters, cautioning women to be silent in church and submissive at home, and applauding the persecution of the Jews because they killed Jesus, none of these positions is argued by enlightened people today.

I won't dismiss the beliefs of blacks who believe that homosexuality is immoral, but I'd caution them that morality has often been used as a cloak for old-fashioned bigotry, fear and discomfort with people and behaviors that are different.

But what about religion? How can African-Americans reconcile religious beliefs with acceptance of same-sex marriage?

I asked the Rev. James Forbes, pastor of The Riverside Church in New York. Forbes is black, and his diverse congregation has gone on record as supporting same-sex marriages - and all other families that are based on the principles of love and justice. Forbes says acceptance might increase as African-Americans become more aware of scientific evidence that suggests sexual orientation is innate - and not a choice.

As for the Bible's apparent disapproval of homosexual behavior, Forbes says it's a matter of how one reads the Bible.
"What is clear," he says, "is that the Bible says the highest principle is love. Once it becomes clear that our sexual orientation is more or less a given, I think black people will begin to recognize that including all in the family of God is a more righteous principle than the abhorrence of gay love."

I see marriage as a civil right, and no group's religious beliefs should be allowed to deny the rights of others. And because blacks have suffered from bigotry and injustice that were cloaked by religion and morality, we should avoid doing the same thing to others.

Sheryl McCarthy is a freelance writer and columnist for Newsday on Long Island, N.Y.She's also a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

Comments

Ervs (not verified) says:

November 9, 2007 - 10:48am

741..212 LEGALIZES SAME SEX MARRIAGE—SORT OF?

Is the statute 741.212 ambiguous and thus unconstitutional? Reading what has been codified this is what the statute says.

Subsection 1: Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida…..are not recognized.

Subsection 3: …the term marriage means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife..

Here is what I see as a possible attack on the statute.

The State recognizes legal unions of two people in Subsection 3 as being the definition of Marriage.

In Subsection 1 the State indicates that people of the same sex are and can be married inside the Jurisdiction of Florida.

The State recognizes the legal union of a same sex couple as they said that a marriage entered in any jurisdiction whether within or outside of Florida. The State thus declares a legal union of a same sex couple. It is the law.

Thus Subsection 3 is now a question. It has been nullified by Subsection 1 which does define Marriage of persons of the same sex. Since the legality has also been approved in subsection 1, the question of whether the definition of marriage includes a same sex couple is void.

Subsection 2 rejects all marriages not recognized under subsection 1. Thus, all agencies, political subdivisions and state organizations must recognize same sex marriages.

But lets play devil’s advocate. The Statute mandates that marriage is only between a man and a woman. But also declares that marriages, legal unions between same sex persons are entered into the jurisdiction of the state of Florida. Subsection 3 says that we are to interpret every Florida Statute with the meaning that Marriage is between only a man and a woman.

Thus the statute reads as such Marriage, the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, between persons of the same sex entered into any jurisdiction….is not recognized.

The Statute is structured so that a reasonable interpretation is that same sex couples can enter into a legal union where there is no attempt to involve one man and one woman in some kind of polyandry or polygamy.

So, the Statute is written so ambiguously as to recognize and derecognized everybody’s marriage whether straight or same sex. Thus, the construction and language renders the statute unconstitutional.

Just a thought.



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