W * O * M * Y * N * Q * U * E * S * T
by Cigi Mac
For those who may be unsure let me tell you Homophobia is alive and well and kicking. I personally experience it on a pretty regular basis. It lives in my family of origin. I had a disconcerting conversation with my youngest sister not very long ago that brought the reality of homophobia back to life for me all too vividly.
I was wearing my mothers engagement ring, that I have inherited, when my sister noticed it on my hand. She commented about the ring, and then told me, that if she were to ever marry again I would have to give it to her. I disagreed, and told her that I could someday have a marriage ceremony of my own. I also stated that same gender marriages could become legal in my lifetime. She then told me that no they couldn't because "That is not the way it is supposed to be." Bing-Bang POW - bull's-eye homophobia dart. I countered with "That is what they used to say about blacks and whites being married." We then had a little battle of wills and she told me to prove it to her. She did not believe that it was, at one time, illegal for interracial couples to marry.
That is when my search began. I found what I was looking for on the Internet. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled "same-race" restrictions on marriage unconstitutional as racially discriminatory. An actual Virginia law stated "All marriages between a white person and a colored person shall be absolutely void without any decree of divorce or other legal process." Va. Code Ann. 20-57. I called my sister immediately to give her the proof. She was obligatory in admitting her ignorance. The ironic fact, in this matter, is that my sisters ex-husband is black. Here was a white woman who benefited from a supreme court ruling she never even knew about. I was amazed that she was unaware of this piece of U.S. history.
I remember a time when marrying a colored person was absolutely unacceptable. I never understood it though. My stepfather is African American. I think about how he never would have touched my spirit and what I would have missed if he had not married my mother. If there had not been others out there fighting for their constitutional and moral rights before him, I may never have known him.
Marriage is best rationalized as an alliance of emotional and financial interdependence between two people in love who make a public and legal commitment to each other. Matrimony is a potent social and legal concept that supports and protects personal family relationships by providing a unique set of freedoms, benefits, and rights.
Those who can marry often take these privileges for granted, but for lesbians, and gay men, these benefits are ultimately denied. Most same-gender couples already live in the same capacity as married couples but have none of the legal protections or benefits that accompany civil marriage. In fact many states are passing laws similar in language to the historic laws regarding marriage between people of different races.
A South Dakota law reads: "Be it by the legislature of the state of South Dakota:...Any marriage between persons of the same gender is null and void from the beginning." House Bill 1184. Arizona passed a similar law in 1996.
This legislation in unneeded. No state has legalized same gender marriages as of yet. The bill is also unconstitutional. It violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution which requires states to recognize the official acts (like marriage) of another state. This legislation will likely cost tax payers thousands of dollars in legal defense when it is eventually challenged.
In 1991, two lesbian couples and one gay couple filed a lawsuit challenging the Hawaii State governments denial of their application for marriage licenses. In May 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that Hawaii's refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples is discriminatory and presumptively violated the state constitution which guarantees equality and prohibits gender discrimination (Baehr v. Miike, 852 P.2d#44, Hawaii 1993). The Hawaii Supreme Court challenged the state government to demonstrate a "compelling" interest for discrimination. This is the material that history is made of. It is also the absurdity that breeds discrimination, prejudice, and hatred among people.
How do we open up the minds of people, such as my sister, who are blind to homophobia? We need to open a dialogue in this country. We must engage fair-minded Americans on a subject they have never before been questioned to think about. True social change comes about by that dialogue. True social change starts with all of us.
There is a group called The Freedom to Marry Coalition (FTM). It is a broadly-based national group committed to organizing, educating, and advocating so that we in all states will be able to take full advantage of civil marriage under Hawaii state law, should the historic marriage case, Baehr v. Miike, now pending in Hawaii courts, reach a positive conclusion. You can sign a petition called the Freedom to Marry resolution. It simply reads: "Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage." Find the Resolution at http://www.freedomtomarry.org/action/sign_res.html.
The MARRIAGE list is an attempt to harness the power of the Internet as an organizing tool to promote the goal of same-sex marriage in the United States (and beyond). There is also a MARRIAGE web page, found at http://abacus.oxy.edu/marriage/. Also, you can see all of the issues of MARRIAGE on the Web, at http://abacus.oxy.edu/pub/marriage/. I urge you to sign the petition now. An outstanding list of supporters, gay and non-gay organizations, and celebrities have already signed. Add your name to the growing list today and maybe tomorrow we will be hearing "You may now kiss the bride." (or groom).
And congratulations will be had by all.
Freedom to Marry Coalition
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
To reach Cigi Mac send e-mail to: Womynquest@AOL.com