Saturday, December 5, 2009

Outrage And Shame In Albany!

This past Wednesday, after a long, emotional debate on New York's Marriage Equality bill, which would have legalized gay marriage here, the State Senate defeated the legislation, 38-24,in a shocking display of intolerance and homophobia. Despite some very eloquent testimony appealing to common sense and human decency, invoking historical examples of persecution and poignant stories of the experiences of Senators' gay family members, the State Senate--YOUR State Senate--chose instead to continue your separate, unequal status as second-class citizens in New York State.

The issue of same-sex marriage goes beyond the right of gays and lesbians to marry. It speaks to the core of our democracy. Same-sex marriage challenges us, as a nation, to see if we can live up to the principles enshrined in our living Constitution, particularly those spelled out in Article IV, Sectuion I, and the 14th Amendment. Article IV, Section I of the Constitution includes the "full faith and credit" clause, which says that every state is bound to respect and honor the laws of every other state. This is why extradition works in the United States. But, curiously, this seems not to apply in cases of gay marriage. The federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) defeats the Constitution by allowing states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. The Act goes on to specify marriage as between a man and a woman only. This, like Jim Crow laws before it, is a pernicious example of a government passing laws to specifically persecute a minority of its population.

Compounding the injury to the LGBT community in this, is the willful disregard of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution, the well-known Equal Protection Clause. Passed by Congress in 1868, the 14th Amendment says "No State shall deny to any person, the equal protection of the laws." But the illegality of gay marriage in 45 states, does, in fact, contravene the 14th Amendment very explicitly. Like the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case that invoked the Amendment in overturning laws against interracial marriage, we are again faced with the moral imperative posed by our Founding Fathers. Neither personal nor religious belief may interfere with Constitutional law, as has been held by our courts time and time again. Yet, I was astonished to see many State Senators, particularly rabidly homophobic Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Pentecostal minister, invoke religious belief to justify voting against gay marriage. Faith-based bigotry has no place in any legislative body, or, indeed, in modern society. Your legislators were not elected to set their religoius beliefs on all of us, they were elected to REPRESENT all of us. By using religion as a legislative influence, these Senators blur the line between Church and State, and move us dangerously closer to theocratic rule.

The entire New York State Senate is up for re-election next year. True to form, no Republicans voted for the Marriage Equality Act. But what's really shocking, is that eight Democrats, (the eight whose "Yes" votes could have passed this bill) voted against it as well. I urge you, one and all, to remember their names and vote them out of office next Fall. They are: Joseph Addabbo (D-Rockaways), Darrel Aubertine (D- Cape Vincent), Ruben Diaz (D-S. Bronx), Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), Hiram Monserrate (D-Elmhurst), George Onorato (D-Astoria), and William Stachowski (D-Buffalo). They have shown themselves unconcerned with our Constitution, our humanity, and our right to live with and love whomever we choose. They have reaffirmed their beliefs that we have no value to them as human beings, and are undeserving of the equal protections of our laws. I therefore submit that they are undeserving of the privilege of continuing to represent us. Go tell it, and keep fighting for our rights! As gays and lesbians of color, we should settle for nothing less.

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