“As I think about anyone or anything – whether history or literature or my father or political organizations or a poem or a film- as I seek to evaluate the potentiality, the life supportive commitment/possibilities of anyone or any thing, the decisive question is, always, where is the love?” – June Jordan, Poetry for the People
If you grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was common for adults then to think that interracial marriage would never happen. When the U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia in 1968 struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, the majority of Americans disapproved of marriage between white and non-whites. Yet by the 1980s the belief that interracial couples should be free to marry was widespread among many, especially young people. Today, younger people are more approving of same-sex marriage as well. Now that six states and our very own District of Columbia allow for same-sex couples to marry, there has been no evidence of these marriages undermining heterosexual marriage or carrying any damaging social effects. What is the rationale for denying marital rights? Is it that marriage should be an institution that promotes procreation- an idea we held in the 19th century? We as the Busboys and Poets Tribe firmly believe that fair treatment and protection under the laws should be guaranteed to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation (race, class, gender) and that the prejudice against same-sex individuals must stop for us to move forward.
Our Tribe is proud to be an ally to our local and global LGBTIQ community and is hopeful for future possibilities for the end of systems of oppression that deny our LGBTIQ friends full Constitutional rights. We have been closely following the same-sex marriage debate in America, especially since President Obama invoked his own beliefs and publically endorsed same-sex marriage last week. He said that he and the First Lady are practicing Christians and that his views may polarize him from others, “But you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about it not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
In a “largely symbolic move” NAACP president Ben Jealous followed suit and supported the President’s decision:
“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people. The well-funded right wing organizations who are attempting to split our communities are no friend to civil rights, and they will not succeed.”
This is not the first time the NAACP has been engaged in the issue of same-sex marriage. Julian Bond, former chairman of the board of the NAACP came in support of same-sex marriage at a time when the NAACP was opposed to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Bond said, “If [black ministers] have real objections to gay marriage than they ought to not perform them, but they ought not prohibit the state from permitting them from being performed.” Yet many heterosexual-marriage supporters in the black community argue that the LGBT movement is attempting to co-opt black history. Although the struggles for same-sex marriage rights and the civil rights movement are separate and different, there are overlaps and some similarities to understand for any person who is discriminated against for any reason.
Rapper Jay-Z tweeted his marriage equality endorsement saying discrimination against gays is “no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.”
An important struggle to consider for same-sex marriage as part of the greater LGBT social movement is the issue of heterosexim- the “belief in the inherent superiority of one form of sexual expression over another and thereby the right to dominate” – as a system of power. Religious beliefs, the medical field, and state regulations reflect normalized heterosexuality and have created a reality where to be heterosexual is to be normal and to be homosexual is to be abnormal or deviant. It is interesting to remember what appears to be natural and normal practices concerning sexuality are actually carefully regulated, “socially constructed” and promoted by institutions, like schools, organized religion, the media, and government policies. President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage (without any real action) can serve as a reminder that the U.S. nation-state in effect regulates which sexualities are deemed legitimate and which are not. To be a same-sex individual in America is to be a part of an oppressed and marginalized group. This is a civil rights issue and it’s encouraging to have the NAACP support the push for equal access to Constitutional rights for all its citizens.
June Jordan’s question, “Where is the love” encourages us to move toward a place where no one needs permission to express love or desire. Now isn’t that real freedom?