William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Gay Equality will help make "Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness" less of a joke

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


    That the United States of America was founded as a great experiment in freedom has always been somewhat of an unintended practical joke. The great freedoms espoused in such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights have always had the world’s attention. But these freedoms Americans so revere have been countered by the importance of defining which Americans were deserve such freedoms. It has always been so.

    While insinuating that the Founding Fathers were pulling a practical joke is a polemic sentiment, how else can one interpret any document that begins with “all men are created equal” and then immediately follow it with a definition of slaves as 60 percent of a person?

    Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

    As English abolitionist Thomas Day wrote in a 1776 letter: “If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature”, “it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.”

    Such has always been the paradox of the United States. While words such as “Freedom” and “Liberty” are shouted with such jingoistic and patriotic glee, these freedoms have always been the sole property of the majority. It has always been so, and millions of Americans from every era have fought hard to ensure that these freedoms only apply to “Real Americans.”

    Yesterday in Maine, we saw the majority gain its latest victory in its perpetual battle to keep the minority beneath them, as voters in Maine overturned the state’s Gay Marriage law. For now, the people have spoken, and their words are as old as the Union itself - Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, provided the majority doesn’t have to share these rights with any minorities that are morally unacceptable, be they slaves or gays.

    Because while America has always been a nation that preaches freedom, the preaching of religious fundamentalists has always had a deciding vote in who deserves these freedoms. And with Proposition 8 in California and yesterday’s vote in Maine, these fundamentalists have made it clear with their words and dollars - the LGBT Community is not worthy of having the same rights as others.

    The election of Barack Obama was, to many, a mandate for freedom. But, in Maine, we saw how Obama has handled Gay Rights issues. Because while they had the money and time to campaign for Dave Corzine’s failed bid to be re-elected as Governor of New Jersey, both he and the Democratic Party were silent and even disinterested in Maine’s Gay Marriage referendum.

    Six months ago, the Los Angeles Times presciently defined Obama’s role in the fight for Gay Rights thusly:

    “Although he appears willing to sign gay rights bills, he takes a curiously passive approach to ensuring that such legislation actually gets to his desk.”

    Basically, if you can get Gay Rights legislation to his desk, he’ll sign it. But don’t expect this transcendent President - the first member of a minority to ever hold the office - to use up any of his political capital fighting for the rights of others. Such fights are for candidates in speeches to the disaffected, they are not the type of fights an elected official has much interest in. Not when there are millions of religious votes to be had.

    Still, Tuesday’s elections did have its bright side for Gay Rights activists, as voters in the State of Washington narrowly voted to increase “Domestic Partnerships” - giving gay marriage advocates a partial victory.

    But, as it always has been, the freedoms promised by the United States are still separated by nebulous walls. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is still the law of the land, and gays and lesbians still get fired for having a sexual preference that religious fundamentalists abhor. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still on the books - and has been vociferously defended by the Obama Administration - meaning that as of today, a married same-sex couple in Vermont is not a married couple in Maine. And Gays and Lesbians can still be fired from their jobs due to their sexual preference as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) slowly makes its way through the Senate.

    To put it as simply as possible, as of today, Nov. 4, 2009, members of the LGBT Community do not have the same rights as a heterosexual white male like myself. In the eyes of the United States Government, I am more deserving of rights than any Gay, Lesbian or Transgendered person.

    These rights will never be given to the LGBT Community without a fight. Freedom, especially in the United States, is predicated on fighting for those freedoms. And the fight will continue, and the voices will get louder until they can no longer be ignored.

    Because despite it all, there is one advantage that the LGBT community owns. And that is the fact that those in federal and state governments just don’t care who has the rights promised in the Founding Fathers’ documents. What they care about is money and votes. It has always been so. And the Milton Friedman revolution has given them all the money in the world. The economy is now the sole possession of the U.S. Government and their corporate sponsors. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are little more than irksome side issues.

    This is why the LGBT Community will - with the help of allies that truly believe in freedom and liberty - eventually gain the rights that will make them five-fifths of an American citizen. This great practical joke of liberty will eventually become a literal truth for the LGBT Community, as it is for myself and others in the majority.

    That it will require a tireless and endless fight goes without saying. For any minority, the fight for equal rights is a long and arduous one, filled with small victories and big losses. But the brave and unstoppable fight by Gay Rights activists will eventually turn the politically impossible into the politically inevitable. It has always been so.


    Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles


    Would you settle for four-fifth's?

    I donno why you people can't be practical.

    Great post.

    Hey, look, Obama thinks the idea of equality for the LGBT community is cool, he's just not willing to do much more than acknowledge that he thinks the idea is cool.  Similarly, he said that he supported single-payer, prior to being elected.  In theory at least.

    I guess it just means that Obama likes cool theories.  That's cool.  I like cool theories, too!

    You remind me of a conversation my wife had with her mother. Her mom seemed insulted that my wife said Palin wasn't qualified, because my mother-in-law thought that Palin was a lot like her. Regardless of the fact that just isn't true, my wife tried to gently point out that she wouldn't want her (her mother) running the country, either!

    Similarly, I have to confess to being a bit lazy about converting my good intentions into actions (at least I voted yesterday). If any of you ever decided to vote for me as President (never mind the fact that I actually was born overseas), I'd seriously question your intelligence. Yeah, I'd probably still serve if elected, though. Laughing

    Thank you for a beautifully written, logical and sane post.

    Thank you very much David and thank you for the link. I'm a big Joe.My.God fan.

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