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It was an impressive display—more than two hundred people standing in front of the State House on a blustery November afternoon, demonstrating in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. What made it most impressive is that the rally was in Columbia, South Carolina, a place not known as a bastion of gay rights activity.
As a veteran of the movement in South Carolina, I can truly say I expected the dozen usual suspects who show up at these protests. We’re usually small but mighty, but on Saturday we were both large (by our state’s standards) and mighty. College-age kids made up most of the crowd, but there were plenty of us older folks, along with gay and lesbian families who brought their children who held signs demanding equality for their parents. It truly was a sight to see.
The rally in Columbia was part of a larger movement to hold rallies across the United States to protest the passage of Prop. 8 in California. For those who support marriage equality it is clearly a matter of civil rights. For those who oppose it, as CNN reports, not so much. In the video one anti-marriage equality protester yells:
“It is not a civil rights issue. It is an issue with morality.”
Really? Marriage is an issue of morality? Let’s follow that line of logic for just a moment. What kind of morality are we discussing here? Should marriage only be reserved for the moral? Does being heterosexual automatically make one more moral than a gay or lesbian person? What is the definition of this morality? If morality is the issue around marriage then shouldn’t people who have sex before marriage be denied marriage? Perhaps those who want to wed after the baby is born should be denied that right. Haven’t they failed in “morality” and thus should be denied the right to marry if marriage is an issue of “morality”? Who decides this morality and who will police it at the marriage license office? Will there be a morality test before the license is issued?
So many questions, and so few answers, from those who would deny that marriage is a civil right in order to deny it to people they don’t like.
But, the outrage isn’t over. The news report shows Prop. 8 supporter Frank Schubert complaining that their voices have been “disrespected” by protesters.
Frank, welcome to our world. The voices and the very lives of gay and lesbian people have been disrespected for decades. We’ve been told to shut up and be happy about whatever scraps of rights get tossed our way from the table of the majority. Frank, you have no idea what it’s like to truly be disrespected.
But, perhaps Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, has the best advice—for us all to take a deep breath and instead of continuing to fight and protest one another start “having the conversation that moves people forward. There are fair people to be found everywhere.”
And perhaps, as we converse, we can all stop disrespecting and judging each other long enough to find respect and equal rights for all.
Related story on Prop 8: Don’t Blame Black Voters: The Obama Non-Effect.