I have been married over half my adult life. Of all the things that I could conceive of threatening my marriage, gay marriage was not one of them. The current divorce rate in the U.S. is roughly 50 percent, so marriage is as risky as a roll of the dice. Still people eagerly enter this institution every day. They do so because it connotes a level of commitment that is stronger than a civil union or a mere promise of fidelity. It also carries substantial legal rights that provide security in everything from property ownership to parental rights. The time has come for America to stop discriminating against its LGBT citizens and afford them the full rights of citizenship in employment, housing and marriage.
The Supreme Court will decide sometime this year whether to strike down all or part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I hope that this Court is as courageous as the Warren Court was in striking down the “separate but equal” policy that allowed Jim Crow laws to flourish and disenfranchise African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. Make no mistake, this is not a moral issue or a states rights issue. It is, quite simply, a civil rights issue. The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. The American Psychological Association Council of Representatives followed suit in 1975. The majority of Americans support same sex marriage. It is now legal in nine states plus the District of Columbia. Time and justice have overcome ignorance and prejudice in the hearts and minds of most of us. We cannot allow misguided notions from the past to continue to defer the legitimate claim of our LGBT family members, friends and neighbors to the American birthright of “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As an African American I know what it feels like to be marginalized by mainstream society. The stress of combating racism has physical and psychological burdens attached. The same is true of combating sexism, mental health stigma and homophobia. A healthy society does not tolerate or condone these behaviors. My desire for my granddaughter is that she comes of age in a society where each person is valued and appreciated for the characteristics with which they are born. In order for that tomorrow to happen, I must speak out today.