Opinion: Gay Rights are Civil Rights

Why every citizen of the US has the right to political, economic and social freedom, and equality under the law

Two major political events unfolded recently. North Carolinians voted to deny couples and children equal protections under the law. What a disappointment. North Carolina already had a ban on gay marriage. But the change in the state’s constitution further banned civil unions and eliminated health care, prescription drug coverage and other benefits for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits. Then President Obama came out in support of marriage equality.  What a courageous move.

The right to choose whom to marry is a legal issue; it is a civil rights issue. Some opponents like to argue this, even take offense when anyone acknowledges gay rights as civil rights especially in the context of the “Black” civil rights movement. It’s a legal issue because it really deals with the benefits that one gets from being married. There are over 1,000 rights conferred to married couples. Among them are the rights to joint parenting, joint adoption, status of next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions, inheritance of jointly owned real estate, and more. It’s not about being able to go to a church and stand in front of a minister. LGBT people were already having commitment ceremonies.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired about the debate over gay rights vs. civil rights. Yes, there are different sets of historical and social issues as it relates to race and sexual orientation. Yes, the distinctions between the African American and gay rights movements are complex and multi-layered. But the definition of civil rights is “the rights of citizens to political, economic, and social freedom and equality.”

The “Black” civil rights movement was not merely about marches and speeches. It was a fight for equality that centered on legislative and policy changes based on issues rooted in bias and discriminatory behavior. It was a battle in the courts as evident by the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education. So too, the fight by gay activists is one that currently centers on seeking legislative and policy changes based on issues deeply rooted in bias (mostly for religious reasons) and discriminatory practices.

The focus should not be whether race trumps sexual orientation or gender identity. Arguments such as you can’t hide being black and you can’t change your race elude me. So, if someone who is black can pass for white then he or she should choose to do so? I should tell my Jewish friend to stop talking about the Holocaust or discrimination because “those people” can choose to denounce Judaism and convert to Christianity. How asinine would that make me? The ability to “pass for straight” should not diminish the struggles of LGBT people in securing full and equal rights under the law.

A strong Christian right contingent has exploited this rift between gay rights and “Black” civil rights in order to promote an anti-gay political agenda (just check out NOM’s divisive black vs gay strategies). Allowing the use of morality and sexual orientation or gender identity to deny someone his or her inalienable rights goes against the basic laws of humanity as well as the principles of the Constitution. Imagine if there were state laws that allowed unwed mothers to be fired from their jobs or denied access to government programs for their children because of Biblical views about premarital sex and illegitimate childbirth. Yet, in 29 states it is legal to fire someone because of his or her sexual orientation.

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  • olivia pope

    I disagree with undertone of guilt trip and manipulation tactics on this article. I do not agree that gay rights sts the same as black civil.rights and I never will. .most blacks are the same way. And I find out absolutely deceptive of this writer to avoid our blatantly ignore how RACIST.most gay whites are towards blacks. Additionally, I’m pretty suck of gays acting like blacks are the only group opposing gay marriage. At least blacks are vocal just as just as the white church is on gay marriage. It is cowardice how gays conveniently ignores that must latinos, asians jews and muslims do not don’t gay marriage.

    The gay man helping in the civil rights movement was not an openly gay man was he? I suspect a lot of gays were still in the closet, hiding from their wives and girlfriend about being gay. Being black is not threw same thing. Gays like you can try to knit lint from a sweater to make it seem as if we have those in common, but you make yourselves look the fool. At the end of the day I choose NOT to support gay marriage and that is MY RIGHT. Don’t like it to bad. When gays start acknowledging THEIR ROLE in racism shady blacks,underhanded smear campaigns like this one shaking blacks as if, in order to have support by them, the rift will continue to widen. And I’m sick and tired of gays cowardly avoiding other groups that don’t support gay marriage. The more black supporters of gay rights keep pushing this issue, the more most blacks opposing gay marriage will dig in their heels against it.

    • Jimmy Harper

      There are still blacks opposed to interracial marriage. There are blacks that are prejudice toward whites. Where do you stand on those important issues? If you are going to take the speck of dust from your brothers eye, please remove the beam from your own first.

  • olivia pope

    ^ the & shaming.

  • Zeke S.

    Wow, first off Olivia please learn how to compose a sentence. Your post was darn near illegible.

    Second, you ask if Bayard Rustin was really openly gay? He was and the article told you so. Can you not read for comprehension? MLK was always worried that Rustin’s openly gay stance might be a problem for the movement. Eventually he chilled out because MLK had the wisdom to realize that discrimination is discrimination regardless of what aspect it took. So MLK kept Rustin as a much needed ally. Learn some history please, before proving how much of a fool you are.

    And don’t speak for me when you say most blacks disagree that gay rights are the same as black civil rights. I think they are and so do my family members and the black folks in my circle. Oh BTW, I’m not gay if you were wondering.

    Third, when and where do you get off with the statement “most gays are racist towards blacks”? Please provide some examples. Why do I suspect you have none? I’ve rarely seen this and so have you. You pulled that exaggeration right out of your butt. It’s this statement that makes me wonder if you are actually black. I think you’re some white supremacist homophobe pretending to be black to promote your agenda.

    Fourth, gays have always let their concerns be known with other groups other than blacks. What, have you just come to the argument on this. Get a clue will you. I live in NYC and gays and the Catholic Church have been battling for decades. You must live in some backwoods shack in Dublin, NC. Oh yeah, I know NC very well.

    Lastly, understand this. As long as gays are discriminated against then that that means anyone, and I mean anyone, can be discriminated against. This means you!

  • Kevin Patterson

    It is because of left-wing, pro-gay, anti-Christian propaganda like this that I no longer subscribe to Black Enterprise, Essence, or Ebony Magazine. Where do we draw the line America? Is there any social behavior considered wrong these days? It is okay to cohabitate outside of marriage. It is okay for two people of the same sex to have the same “rights” as a heterosexual couple. If everything is everything and we Christians have completely “misinterpreted” the Bible then why doesn’t our so-called God-fearing President campaign for polygamy and inter-species marriages, too? There are those who wish to have more than one spouse and those who wish to “marry” their animal “partners”. Laugh if you will, but this country is headed down a slippery moral slope into oblivion, not unlike the ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans before us. Until we can see and acknowledge the spiritual elements at work here, America will never recover economically.

    • Jimmy Harper

      Kevin: The Bible and Christian stance was used to support slavery and deny interracial couples from marrying. The manipulation tactics on the rest of your post don’t make sense…you’ve just stated that your wife is superior to a gay partner. You then equate a gay partner to multiple wives and then an animal. And final note: the Roman empire became Christian for a couple of hundred years BEFORE falling. Want to rethink your position now that it’s been shown as a lie?