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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Work for Full LGBT Equality Is Far from Over

The history of the United States can be summarized quite accurately as the slow but sure realization of the vision of its founding document, the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal."  The history of the Christian Church in America can be summarized as the gradual and grudging accommodation of that realized vision.

The same Constitution that said “all men are created equal” also said, “Slaves shall represent 3/5 of a human being.”  It also denied women the right to vote, gave states the freedom to establish a religion, and upheld “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws, making interracial marriages illegal and restricting immigration to maintain white supremacy. 

The founders had something in mind when they wrote the Constitution, but it’s not the Republic in which we now live. In fact, their prejudices went so deep that they didn’t even feel the need to write “all white, landed, protestant, heterosexual, free men are created equal.” Forget about their slaves, forget about people with other creeds who would later emigrate, forget about women, forget about those without land, forget about gay people—the only ones who had the right to vote, and thus the right to participate in the building of this new republic, were people exactly like them.

In the intervening years, slavery has been abolished, women have been fully emancipated and nonwhites have been given the full dignity of the law.  With today's announcement from the Supreme Court of the United States that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans is finally the realized dream of that distant day in 1776. 

At least in theory.  Racial prejudice remains today, as does the inequality of women in the workplace. Today's SCOTUS ruling elevated LGBTs, yet they still have to face workplace discrimination in the majority of states where they can be fired for being gay.  Personal prejudices continue, as do religious sanctions barring them from membership in many churches.  Gay bashing endangering the lives of LGBTs is still a reality. So, as much as I celebrate today's Court victory, I realize there is much work left to do. There will be, at least among the allies of the gay community, a feeling that we have reached the pinnacle of equality. Gays know better. Let's rejoice in the momentous decision, yes.  But let us not retire to the comfort of the sidelines, because the work for full equality is far from over. 

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