Hiro (hiromasaki) wrote,

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Agendas, Rights, and Ways

Last night I got into a rather heated debate with my best friend over the topic of Gay Marriage. I am sorry to say that the entire debate was not on which side we stand (we both feel that it is atrocious that it has been banned outright, to say nothing of the lack thereof.) however, the debate centered primarily on the parallels to the Civil Rights movements of the 50's and 60's, and the correct course of action for the Gay Community to take in order to reverse the bans that have been put in place and work towards making sure that every member of the nation has equal civil rights under law.

His stance, for the first time that I can tell, had severe gaping holes in logic... He feels that action, nonviolent resistance, followed by violent if needed is the only course to be taken. In his mind, the Gay Community should be every bit as active and indignant now as the followers of Martin Luther King Jr. were in the 1960's. He states that Rev. King believed (in the Birmingham Jail Letter) that the actions taken then were past due. And that even with workarounds available (Power of Attorneys, Massachusetts' willingness to marry, etc.) that any voluntary delay, and even one state banning the act of equal marriage, relegates all gay couples to second-class status, which is completely unforgivable.

My retort to this was two-fold... One is that the actions taken by the activists in the 60's would not have worked in the 1870's, and possibly backfired to enough of a degree that if they had occurred in 1863 the Northern slaves would probably not have been freed as rapidly as they were. (As a note to him and others, the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, The Carolinas, and PARTS of Lousiana and Virgina. The rest were freed over two years later in 1865 by the 13th Amendment.) Secondly, that a change in the views of the general populace through appropriate PR and societal exposure would lead to a better end result, even if the legalization of marriage would take longer.

Upon reading the Letter from Birmingham Jail, I find that his interpretation of the letter is spurious as well. A direct quote:

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

The community at large is still willing to negotiate and debate the merits of equal marriage, and relatively openly, too. The issue is not being ignored, and the largest spark of debate was spurred by Republicans using the issue as a platform. However, the groups that jump towards a direct action path before negotiations have proven untenable are only driving the middleground towards the opposition, and solidifying their fear, ignorance, and defensive postures. When presented with two groups fighting, if both are rabid, yelling, and screaming, undecided masses tend to huddle where their knowledge is, which for 76% of the population, the Holy Bible, which the anti-equal marriage group were quick to solidify as being on their side. The best way to counteract this is activism through education, showing that the passages beaten into the ground by the opposition are open to many interpretations, most of which are so non-specific...

My biggest issue with my friend, though, is that he refuses to acknowledge that the level of civil rights that are denied to homosexuals now is any less egregious than the ones suffered by African-Americans during the 60's... While violence against homosexuals is not unheard of, they do not live constantly in fear the way many African-Americans did... Unless they work for the military, most do not worry about losing their jobs, their apartments, their livelihoods... Some will not hire or rent to them, but the are already a much more accepted group. In my opinion that acceptance can be nurtured into a more complete acceptance, if one is willing to do the work and wait.

My friend openly admitted that if forcing the legalization of equal marriage today was guaranteeing that 5% of the US population would be hospitalized or buried, it would be worth it. I can't understand how for something as simple as Marriage, given that living in peace is currently possible, that something that is merely a title (A very important title, but nominally just a title) is worth that many lives in trade for expediency.
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