In his remarks for the forum page of February 19, Rev. Herb Spady found it necessary to make a detour from his comments on the importance of National Black History Month to advocate for continued discrimination against another oppressed group: Gay Americans. He was at pains to insure that no one compared the ongoing struggle for equality in which gays presently find themselves, with that of Black America, going so far as to label such a conceit as "absurd."
Because I am a Black American who sees the struggles of gays and African Americans as being precisely equivalent, and because just this week, the first administration led by an African American has signaled that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense Of Marriage Act, I believe I am on firm ground to take issue with Mr. Spady's views.
Spady’s chief argument against confusing the two groups seemed to rest solely on pigmentation. He stated that "The homosexual movement is made up of different races of people who have chosen this idea as a lifestyle. The equality of rights for all citizens should be used and granted in the interest of a race of people and in the discussion of matters pertaining to the race of people."
This statement was stunning in its incoherence. It not only made the demonstrably untrue claim that oppression can only be imposed on racial groups, it was contradictory on its face, speaking of the "equality of all citizens," while it clearly singled out the hopes and aspirations of one community, namely homosexuals, as being beneath contempt. In light of recent incidents of bullying and gay teen suicide, it was astounding to witness the insensitivity displayed when a member of one oppressed group told another such group that it had no right to dream of basic equality.
It bears recalling that in the case of Loving vs the State of Virginia (1967), on the right of blacks and whites to inter-marry, the Supreme Court upheld a "Lifestyle Choice" which faced opposition very similar to that faced by gays and lesbians today.
As an African American, I believe that gays in this country have experienced many of the same indignities that blacks were forced to endure in the past, and could only stand in silent solidarity with the civil rights struggles of Martin Luther King Jr., James L. Farmer Jr., and other heroes of that fractious time in our history. King often framed the struggle in the same language used by the founders of our nation which shone a light on ideas supportive of our common humanity.
To my mind, that humanity is all that is required to see that institutionalized discrimination against the LGBT community in America must be brought to an end. I have stated in these pages recently that the impulse toward equality is quintessentially American. No counter argument that I’ve seen here has altered that view. President Obama has said that he has "grappled" with this issue for a long time. I for one, am pleased that he appears to be coming around to the American way of seeing things when it comes to gay rights.
But my faith that gay fellow Americans will one day enjoy the thousand or so rights and benefits that I as a married heterosexual can take for granted, has less to do with a president than with a country. The list of the achievements of similar movements stretches into the distant past, and shows no sign of ever stopping: women voters, African Americans, child laborers, disabled Americans, migrant workers, labor unions, and gay Americans. When we as a people tire of the iron fist of oppression, and utilize the street and the ballot box to express our unwillingness to endure inequality, the country changes for the better. This is exactly what is meant by "creating a more perfect union."
When commentators like Spady and others who have appeared here speak in the stentorian tones of the prophets of old, it is easy to reach the conclusion that theirs is the only possible interpretation of scripture, morality and ethics as regards the issue of homosexuality.
Not so. I encourage your readers to begin to listen to, and dialog with those within the emerging "Christian Left." These are people no less devout or ethical than those in the Christian Right, who seem intent on disenfranchising a whole class of law-abiding Americans based on narrowminded, often misguided views of morality. The Christian Left, or liberal Christians, are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to the conservatively religious, who, on a range of issues have proven that they are ready and willing to cast the first stone.