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Gay rights v. Civil Rights. August 14, 2005

Posted by Administrator in Mechanistic Relativism, Politics.

Check this out. Written, I believe, by a black man.

Don’t confuse gay rights with civil rights

Jun. 26, 2005 12:00 AM

The gay rights movement and the civil rights movement represent campaigns to seek justice before the law.

Both have rejected efforts to deny anyone access to employment, education, health care, housing and places of public accommodation.

For this reason, many civil rights activists of color have supported gays and lesbians in their fight against homophobia and persecution.

Nevertheless, there are differences between the two movements. In America, race has been the most salient factor in determining one’s upward mobility and equality before the law.

Although the civil rights movement inspired nascent liberation movements on other fronts, it was in essence a Black liberation struggle that was primarily concerned with racial equality.

It is, therefore, inappropriate to liken, across the board, the struggles of gays and lesbians to the struggles of people of color.

Understandably, many in the gay rights movement have cloaked themselves in the civil rights movement.

Although hotly contested during its peak, the civil rights movement is now looked upon by many as the model struggle for moral righteousness and civil recognition.

Nevertheless, present-day gay and lesbian activists often invoke the civil rights movement without recognizing and acknowledging the extent to which the gay rights movement and civil rights movement differ.

One gay rights group recently likened marriage bureaus to “new lunch counters” for gay people, invoking protests targeting racially segregated restaurants during the 1960s.

Gays and lesbians did not, however, endure 246 years of slavery in America. The United States did not fight a Civil War over homosexuality.

And Jim Crow segregation did not target gays and lesbians. Americans have never been relegated to segregated hospitals, schools, swimming pools, restaurants, neighborhoods, cemeteries, etc., by virtue of their sexual orientation.

As Margaret Kimberly recently stated, “Everyone wants to use our (Black) story. Everyone with a beef, advocacy issue or pet project invokes the image of Black oppression in order to legitimize their case.” Even animal rights activists have been known to compare the plight of lab rats to that of lynching victims.

“Out” gays and lesbians are often targets of discrimination, bigotry, hatred and heinous hate crimes, and they have been subjected to job discrimination, anti-sodomy laws that mandated prison terms and forced treatment in psychiatric hospitals.

They have not, however, been met in mass by dogs, water hoses and guns wielded by law enforcement officers and terrorists such as the Ku Klux Klan.

More importantly, perhaps, they have not had their capacity to generate intergenerational wealth retarded by the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, state-sanctioned mob rule that destroyed entire communities of color, and contemporary race relations that react more readily to epidermal differences than sexual orientation.

It is necessary (not adversarial) to acknowledge that whether they do so or not, gays and lesbians can choose not to lay bare their orientation to avoid discrimination that might thwart their socioeconomic progress.

Moreover, the civil rights movement opposed the kind of White privilege that often characterizes gay and lesbian life. Admittedly, there is danger in assuming that one cannot be both gay and a person of color. Nevertheless, gays and lesbians are depicted far too often from a White perspective, which marginalizes people of color, gay and straight, even as the gay rights movement appropriates race-based civil rights movement language and style.

The real rub concerns the religious underpinnings of the civil rights movement and whether the gay rights movement is its moral equivalent.

I believe Fred Shuttlesworth, the first secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conferences, said it best: “I never took down anything in our minutes that addressed the issue of gay rights. The issue of gay rights was not our focus and should not be confused with the civil rights movement.”

The big and often emotional and spiritual question today is whether gay marriage is a civil right.

The key word here is “civil.” A “civil union” would be defined by the state and be available to all citizens, apart from the definitions of religious denominations.

The institution of “marriage,” however, whether by ancient contract or more recent religious sacrament, should not be extracted from its religio-historical context and co-opted to suit current agendas.

The civil rights movement demanded freedom, as set forth in our documents, so that the humanity and basic rights of all people are protected.

To deny gays and lesbians their civil rights would undermine the principles upon which these manifestos of freedom rest.

Nevertheless, appropriating race-based civil rights movement rhetoric and ransoming religio-historical institutions like marriage for sociopolitical legitimacy are at best ill-advised and ahistorical, and at worst disingenuous and irreverent.

Matthew C. Whitaker is an assistant professor of history at Arizona State University.

There’s nothing else to say.



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