What do you want on your Tombstone?

 

Chances are, it will not be “gay,” or, for that matter, “straight.” You feel, like most people, that a single word does not describe who you are – the complex emotions and thought processes that make you fully you, a unique individual. A single word could not possibly describe your life, its achievements and its struggles.

 

Prejudice is an ugly thing. We have come a long way towards eliminating the expression of prejudice through the legal system. Women vote; so do minorities. They were not “granted” the right to vote; they fought for it and changed the minds of their opponents. The current fight for marriage equality in Texas and a few other holdout states shows discrimination against the LGBT community to be the one form of prejudice still acceptable in some quarters.

 

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted a survey showing that 3.8 % of American adults identify themselves as members of the LGBT community. That number represents roughly 9 million Americans as of the 2010 census. And the number is probably higher, as some people may have been reluctant to identify as LGBT. Most people have a gay friend, colleague or family member.

 

And if there were a single gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person in the US, would it be acceptable to discriminate against him or her? Is there ever any reason to discriminate against another human being? The city of Plano passed a non-discrimination ordinance against LGBT people looking for employment, which ran smack into opposition from several Texas pastors and evangelical groups. Those groups cite the profound Christian faith of business owners and their First Amendment rights to free exercise of that faith. The New Testament, though, makes little mention of homosexuality; it is not mentioned in the 10 Commandments, and it is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Wrath, Greed and Sloth are… and maybe prejudice should be.

 

Scientists have conclusively proved that biological factors overwhelmingly affect sexuality; in other words, it is not a choice. Homosexuality is not going away. It can, however, be persecuted and driven underground, in which case the stain is on the society that practices discrimination. The LGBT community’s fight for equality is the civil rights issue of our time, and we can choose to be on the right side of it. It is past time we let one single word define a person. We cannot change what is in people’s hearts and minds, but we can pass laws that acknowledge every person’s dignity. It is past time LGBT people enjoyed full rights, including equal access to work and the right to marry who they love.

NOTES:

This was written a couple of weeks ago, and I had a sense that things were moving fast. This has happened since:

  • Ben Carson, who was at the time forming an exploratory committee and thinking about running for the presidency, made unfortunate remarks showing the depth of his ignorance when he argued that homosexuality was a choice, as proved by the fact that men who entered the prison system as “straight” came out gay. What choice did these men have, exactly?
  • The petition circulated in Plano demanding a repeal of the non-discrimination ordinance was found to be flawed and unacceptable, so the measure will not be on the ballot in the May election.
  • More and more states are making same-sex marriage legal. Meanwhile, our attorney general is trying to nullify the one marriage performed in Austin between two women, one of whom is battling cancer. Where is compassionate conservatism when you need it?
  • We are awaiting the Supreme Court decision with bated breath. It could put an end to another ugly form of discrimination…..
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