Sunday, May 18, 2008

Making a connection

I wrote a couple days ago about seeing Thurgood on Broadway the same week the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. Well, apparently someone else sees the connection between the fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans and the fight for civil rights for African-Americans.

Here's an interview in today's Los Angeles Times with Chief Justice Ronald M. George of the California Supreme Court, who voted with the majority and wrote the opinion. Court rules prohibit him from speaking too specifically about the decision until it takes effect, in 30 days, but I think this quote really says it all:

"As he read the legal arguments, the 68-year-old moderate Republican was drawn by memory to a long ago trip he made with his European immigrant parents through the American South. There, the signs warning "No Negro" or "No colored" left "quite an indelible impression on me," he recalled in a wide-ranging interview Friday. "I think," he concluded, "there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe."

The Times also has a story looking at the experience in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage became legal in 2004. The writer talks to gay and lesbian couples about the impact being able to marry has had on their lives, and how even opponents have come around. Here's a great quote from a state representative from the Worcester area,

"I was a huge opponent," said Rep. Paul Kujawski, a Democrat who voted repeatedly in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. After three years of conversations with gay and lesbian families and individuals, Kujawski said, he has become a supporter: "I listened to story after story, and I found out they only want what everyone else wants -- the opportunity to live in happiness and dignity."

Ok, my immediate reaction was "Duh!" I mean, it took him three years of conversations with gay and lesbian families before it finally dawned on him that they simply want what we all want - the opportunity to live in happiness and dignity. I'm thrilled that he finally realized what should have been self-evident all along, but why wasn't he convinced after the first conversation? Seriously, what took him so long?!

Finally, Andrew Sullivan has a link on his Web site to a heart-wrenching column he wrote for Time magazine in 2004 about his experiences growing up, realizing that he was gay and coming to terms with it, and why the freedom to marry is so important to him.

In a couple of days, I'll be posting a review of a moving, thought-provoking off-Broadway play I saw called Good Boys and True. Sullivan's words made me think again of that play and its young protagonist, who is going through much the same process. In this paragraph, Sullivan could be speaking to that teenager:

"I want above everything else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading this now. I want to let him know that he doesn't have to choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home."

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