Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Conservative in a Liberal World (Part 8): 21st Century Civil Rights

My generation ran it's civil rights race, and with a few exceptions, managed to clear all of the hurdles placed before us. The civil rights issue we had to deal with was racism. When I was young, I remember racism being rampant. Neighbors would congregate and talk about African Americans in unflattering terms. It didn't help that we were living in public housing at the time, and racists in the neighborhood had little fear about antagonizing their neighbors of color. When we left the projects, and we moved into a modest apartment, I remember mom and her friends evaluating wether a neighborhood was "too dark" to move in to.

Was mom a racist? Not really. She didn't HATE African-Americans (which I believe is the requirement to be considered a racist). She was what I would call civil-rights challenged. She didn't have any African-American friends, therefore she did not understand African-Americans, and like many people of narrow horizons and minds, she didn't want to expose herself or her children to things she did not understand or appreciate. In other words, she did not have the needed knowledge to overcome the stereotypes she learned from society.

My generation was the last generation born during the civil rights era, and therefore it was left to us, thrust together by the courts to learn to get along. And guess what? We did! The numbers of interracial marriages and biracial children are on the rise ... a testament to the fact that we figured it out.

So what is the great civil rights issue of the 21st century? Homophobia. I see it every day, and it is an issue that simmers under the surface of every public and private organization in America. It is in our schools, universities, workplaces, professional sports teams churches and the military.

Homophobia, as an issue will also be tougher than racism to deal with. At least with racism, there was no explicit biblical statements for racists to hang their hat on. The Bible directly condemns homosexuality, which then places homophobia in a different class altogether than racism. Sure, there are those who claim that the mark of Cain was black skin, but the Bible doesn't say that. However the Bible does say that for a man to have sex with a man is an "abomination" (Lev 20:13). So now, instead of being just a legal and political issue, Homophobia has a religious and moral dimension which cannot be ignored.

Rather than address the religious and moral issues around homosexuality, however, I will limit myself to the social and political issues, because that is the focus of this blog. I will leave it to the philosophers and theologians to have the other argument. Sure there are those who cling to the second part of that verse in Leviticus and say that homosexuals should be put to death, and there are plenty of examples of personal attacks on homosexuals, enough to fill an entire blog, much less a single post.

So the first task: defining what it is we are against. Sure, we can say that we are against homophobia, but the definition of homophobia would be fear of homosexuals, not hatred of homosexuals. We need to establish that there is nothing wrong with fear. Fear is a natural response to the different. The task is to either better define the word, or replace it with a better term.

Now regardless of wether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not, you have to admit that there has to be some national consensus as to the status of same-sex couples in the United States. Non-married heterosexual couples have some standing before the law. You can sue for palimony, with varying degrees of success at the end of a long-term live-in relationship. And if there are children involved, the legal status of the relationship becomes all the more definite.

So what should we do with same-sex couples in America? Put them in a rocket and fire it at the moon and pretend they never existed? Or better yet, how about we simply acknowledge that these relationships exist. Create a civil union law, and allow people to register their civil unions, and allow for the dissolution of civil unions under the divorce laws. Civil Unions would allow the same hospital, and legal rights as a marriage, so obviously, a dissolution process would be necessary. And, to avoid the stigmatization of same-sex couples, all unions of heterosexual couples not performed by an ordained member of the clergy (read: judge/justice of the peace) would also be classified as a civil union. Reserve the word marriage for a ceremony that takes place in a church, and leave the rest be. John Barrowman, the very talented British actor who just happens to be gay says he doesn't want a "marriage" from a belief system that "hates" him (read the article and interview here, if you like).

Surely this will not destroy the human race, although it does stand to make divorce lawyers richer with the infusion of a whole new marketplace of civil union dissolutions ...

No comments:

Post a Comment