Thursday, June 30, 2005

World Equality and Freedom at Home

We were not the first, but I am sure we will not be the last. After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.
-Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on passage of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage

By Graham N. Murphy (a poliboi)

This morning I woke up to some incredible news. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Spain. Just hours ago, the Spanish Parliament passed a law that legalized same-sex marriage. This momentous occasion for lesbian and gay people throughout the world comes on the heels of a historic vote in the Canadian Parliament in favor of a bill that could legalize same-sex marriage in that country.

As July 4th approaches, a day that brought independence and freedom to the United States of America, it is interesting to consider how far the LGBT movement for equality has come in America in comparison to the same movement in other countries. Undeniably, the American movement for equality has made some progress. At the local and state level the movement for equality is further along than at the federal level. Many states have laws protecting lesbian and gay people from discrimination and a small minority of states have laws that provide some basic rights for lesbian and gay couples. However, while full equality for LGBT people is ringing forth from other countries around the world, bigotry and hatred continue to ring forth from America's Liberty Bell.

In America, the political climate is certainly much different than the one that exists in both Spain and Canada. While the majority of the people in those countries support equal rights for lesbian and gay people (62% of Spaniards support same-sex marriage), America's movement for equality is still struggling to combat societal homophobia. Earlier this year, the new President of the Human Rights Campaign embarked on a journey to reintroduce the LGBT community to parts of the country where support of LGBT people is limited. While how successful the journey was in improving the way LGBT people are viewed in America's heartland is in question, the mere fact that the journey took place is a remarkable statement on how far the movement for equality needs to still go in America.

If the American LGBT community still needs to prove its value, worth and right to dignity and respect from the American people, then it has a long way to go before it ever should expect to be where Spain and Canada are today. Which begs a vitally important question: What have we, the American LGBT community, been doing all this time?

For far too long, we have neglected our obligation as a movement for equality. While we have been spending our time in America's legislatures trying to pass laws, we have not spent enough time with the American people. While hatred is spread against LGBT people across the country in churches and through some of the media, we have not done enough to tell our stories and make our moral case for equal rights to all Americans. The churches and media that spread hate are winning the battle for LGBT rights, because they have an army of supporters that are loud and that politicians will listen too. Our power as a community will continue to dwindle as long as we do not become louder through the power of our own voices and our allies.

I have faith that our community's message of love and equality is more compelling than hate and division. The basic problem is that we have not found our voice and we do not know how to tell our stories in a way that the majority of people will hear us and open up their hearts to what we have to say. Once we learn how to change hearts and minds we can begin the true fight for equality in America.

July 4th provides not only an opportunity to celebrate the profound values America was founded on, but for many of us it also provides an opportunity to speak with friends and family about what freedom truly means. Freedom to love. Freedom to live. Freedom to be. And we will all be truly free when we all find a voice that opens up hearts to our cause for equality.

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