Advocacy News - A call for condemnation of U.S. human rights
February 16, 2007
call for condemnation of US human rights
By Bud Evans
Valentine’s Day has come and gone in the so-called “Garden State” of New Jersey USA, again without loving, committed, same-sex couples being afforded the same opportunity to marry as freely as their heterosexual counterparts. Last October, a slim majority of New Jersey State Supreme Court justices passed the buck to the NJ state legislature. That cowardly act has all but guaranteed that marriage apartheid will be imposed on same-sex couples for the foreseeable future in the form of a segregating and dehumanizing classification called “Civil Unions“ in New Jersey. The lack of judicial courage in properly interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the state constitution will, no doubt, also set a dangerous precedent for like-minded state judiciaries and legislatures to comfortably mimic in other allegedly “liberal“ states in America.
This cynical approach to civil rights just further cements the fact that the United States of America is the quintessential charlatan of the world when it demands it own version human rights at gunpoint abroad and yet shows so very little respect for the universal concept of human rights at home. America is the moral equivalent of a social worker who espouses child protection on the clock, but then goes home after work and beats his less favored child with impunity while his neighbors look on and say nothing. Where is the international condemnation of America’s domestic human rights policies? The United States is never hesitant in pointing out human rights abuses overseas, yet no progressive nation has officially put the same spotlight on America’s shameful and inexcusable oppression of the civil rights of same-sex oriented Americans.
"SPINELESS" NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT
The enemies of fairness and equality are licking their bloody chops again with glee celebrating their amoral victory against universal human rights in yet another part of the US. The spineless October 25th, 2006 same-sex "Marriage Parity" ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court is ostensibly yet another victory for homophobes - albeit, far short of the pseudo-Christian, radical Right's obsessive/compulsive agenda of having every gay and lesbian in these "Divided" States of America simply legislated into nonexistence. Nevertheless, they have succeeded, via the craven NJ Supremes, in getting the equivalent of a yellow star of David or, more historically accurate, a pink triangle, judicially sewn onto the very fabric of our lives by branding our families as somehow not important enough to be considered a "real family", in every sense of the word, not really human, and not worthy of the same comprehensive equal protections which marriage alone can offer our most cherished and valued loved ones.
The New Jersey Supreme Court majority ruling made it very clear that it is oddly acceptable, under New Jersey's state constitution's so-called “Equality Clause“, to legislatively relegate same-sex couples to some sort of subhuman classification of a lower order in society; only fit to be ghettoized and isolated from other families of a similar, but preferred, structure. Therefore, in their ruling, they washed their hands of dealing with this thorny issue and, like modern day Pontius Pilates, they threw the “problem” back into the laps of state legislators and political Pharisees. They left the fate of untold thousands of New Jersey same-sex couples to rest upon the whims of the status quo, the ruling class, with its inherent power and privilege, to determine if they really wanted to change the bylaws to their own private club called “marriage“. The result: the New Jersey State Legislature said no to equality and yes to segregation. Then the New Jersey State Legislature decided to erect a fence and call it “Civil Union” in order to keep its less favored citizens out of the “Marriage” neighborhood.
GARDEN STATE OR BRIAR PATCH
Officially, in New Jersey, the “Garden State”, gays are now permitted to play in the briar patch but not allowed to come too close to the flowers. The new rules state that only heterosexual couples are considered worthy to bear the nomenclature of "Marriage", but NJ Gays can have something similar -- just not the name.
Still, the Supreme Court of New Jersey mandated a change -- at least one that must seem to do justice and to satisfy the State Constitution -- even if it has to be cobbled together from the irrational prejudices of a homophobic society.
Great Britain recently made a similar token change in law and created a national “anything-but-marriage” apartheid system for homosexual couples called Civil Partnerships, so why not New Jersey? Why not follow Great Britain’s class-conscious society’s example over the Netherlands’ or Spain’s or Belgium’s or South Africa’s or Canada’s egalitarian principles? Prejudice still has plenty of allies in the modern world. And yet so many of our "friends" remain silent.
Yes, the key word, and bone of contention here, is Marriage. Like so many ignorant assumption on the part of too many insecure homophobes, heterosexuals do not and have never had a monopoly on family, love, commitment, sacrifice, military service, heroism, faith and moral decency anymore than they have ever been solely the only ones in romantic and monogamous relationships.
Same-sex couples have, since time immemorial, been married, in one form or another, to their life-partners with or without an official recognition of it. Yet that one word, marriage -- which far too many heterosexuals take for granted or besmirch through casual divorces and infidelities -- has been arbitrarily selected to be just the most recent straw dog upon which to heap terror upon the gay community for political gain? It is also about being forced to acknowledge a reality that many malicious and insipid people cannot face. So too it is about fairness and a birthright of equality to which all American citizens, as well as all human beings, are entitled. Anything less is a denigration of our lives and vile affront to those we love and cherish most intimately.
So, last October’s New Jersey Supreme Court “pass the buck” ruling and the recent New Jersey State Legislature’s insulting “better than nothing - take it or leave it” establishment of an official second class citizenship codification of same-sex partnerships in response should not come as a surprised to any of us. This is just another example of a long line of recent rulings which have been cynically engineered, utilizing the most tortured judicial and legislative rationalizations, in order to preserve the status quo at the expense of the disenfranchised and the politically powerless. What could possibly be more shameful to lay upon the doorstep of our maybe-not-so enlightened entry into the 21st century?
THE UNITED STATES' UNFORTUNATE LEGACY
Still, what is so disheartening though is that this ruling, and the subsequent apartheid legislation, came from one of the heretofore most "liberal" state courts and from one of the most “liberal” Democrat-controlled legislatures in the United States. Yet, all the while, loving and committed same-sex couples are being handed fair judicial rulings in constitutional courts in other, truly progressive, nations throughout the civilized world. Small wonder why America is held in such low esteem abroad when she has done so little to earn the respect of her own people. The sad legacy of the not-so-United States lies in the fact that America is, at best, nothing more than a modern-day feudal society which just simply masquerades as a constitutional republic.
Progressive courts and state governments in America have just demonstrated how gutless even our most liberals allies are when it come to standing up against the invidious contagion of bigotry. Once again, social justice is only given a complete thumbs-up when it just involves politically "safe" and “non-controversial” minorities, or when the consequence of doing anything less could result in urban neighborhoods set ablaze, bloody riots, and subsequent enormous property damage -- as witnessed during the race riots in America in the 1960‘s. So it is a good thing that most members of the GLBT community are pacifist by nature. If any other minority were treated as we are, there would most likely be very dire consequences in retaliation for the affronts and injustices heaped daily upon us.
In the 1980's, racism in South Africa was very much like it was in America's abhorrent and not too distant past. Today, South Africa leads the continent in embracing civil and social equality for all of her citizens. Same-sex marriage equality was recently upheld by the South African Supreme Court and affirmed by that country’s legislature which, mindful of the dehumanizing effects of apartheid and the lie of "separate, but equal", ruled out any form of segregation in regards to marriage equality in South Africa.
On the other hand, the myth that is United States of America's constitutional guarantee of “equality in all things under the law” is once again evident in how America treats the least politically powerful amongst her citizens. The full equality and human rights of gays and lesbians is the last arena in the United States where the forces of bigotry and the forces of humanity are pitted against one another and are engaged in a war for civilization. The fomenters of group-hatred are once again fighting tooth and nail to uphold the status quo of civil rights for only "socially approved" members of society.
In a country that obsessively delights in pitting one faction of society against another, tens of millions of gay and lesbian Americans are just the latest minority that right-wing religious extremists and primarily Republicans politicians can exploit using bigotry for financial gain and for political advantage. Unfortunately, the GLBT community is also considered a reliable crop that left-wing Democrats can harvest for political gain as well without these ersatz political allies having to make any real commitment towards civil equality for the GLBT community of loyal voters. No doubt mindful of this, the New Jersey Supreme Court cowardly passed the buck to a Democratic Party controlled New Jersey state legislature who willingly upheld the status quo and imposed an humiliating apartheid "marriage-lite" segregating domestic partnership in the form of state limited Civil Unions for same-sex couples.
The so-called “Civil Union Compromise” is a slap in the face of human rights and a pandering way of saying: "Look, you‘re not really one of us". It is, in effect, no different than erecting barriers like the 1950`s "Whites Only" signage over lunch counters and water fountains in America which spelled out very clearly how certain people were meant to be kept apart. But today it is, "Heterosexuals Only Over Here" and "Homosexuals Go Stand Over There or Just Go Away". Our segregation doesn't even allow us to sit in the back of the bus -- rather, it forces us to board a different bus altogether; one that is forced to take a bumpy back-road, and one that is, most often, not even going in the same direction as everyone else.
That is another reason why it is so unconscionable these days that too many leaders in the Black community refuse to see the parallel. This just demonstrates how easily human beings of all stripes can be seduced -- either through political polarization; religious extremism; cultural prejudices, or all of the above. The self-centered and retrogressive lure of social tribalism inflates oppressors from every group in society, but especially those in power, with false assertions of group superiority. That is the nexus of both the irresistible power of bigotry and its consequential rationalizations of discrimination.
Group-hatred is the real root of evil in the world. All you have to do is trace the incessant occurrences of ethnic and group conflicts in the world from the present day back to the beginning of recorded history. Human civilization travels along a bloody road paved with the broken bodies of those who had the courage to stand up to those in the majority who held the reigns of power. Less strife and fewer civil wars occurred eventually because of coalitions which were formed to protect minority populations -- although this is not always true in many part of the world. But today, in America and elsewhere, gays are an easier, lower risk target that invokes little public outrage because, lets face it, bigots are cowards essentially and the public, in general, are apathetic, self-involved herd animals who will happily ignore the wolves amongst them unless the predators are heading their way.
A recent CNN/Time poll cited around 57% of Americans opposed to same-sex marriage equality. Before the US Supreme Court struck down state bans on interracial marriage, all major polls in the 1960's had the public opposing interracial marriage by much higher margins -- most polls as high as 90% against what was considered then to be "race mixing" or miscegenation.
THE US CONSTITUTION - EMPTY PLATITUDE
Eventually, in 1967, the United States Supreme Court (what would be smeared today as being an "activist" federal court) did their job, which state legislatures had avoided for political purposes, and corrected the inequities. So, today, it's far past time that an equally courageous, fair and impartial judiciary stand up to the tyranny of the majority and affirm that the phrase "equality under the law" is not just another empty platitude that the US Constitution has come to symbolize, but rather it is a legal mandate and an absolute, unassailable, uncompromising guarantee of freedom and equality that all American citizens, great or small in number, can actually depend upon.
Let's face it, the United States of America has never been really "United", and America has never really been a fair or decent county for all her people. No, America is more like a “feel-good” Hollywood movie; it all about selling a pipe dream to the biggest group of ticket buyers and essentially ignoring all those who can't afford to fill up as many chairs in the audience. It has boastfully made a promise of equality in all things to all people, yet it has jealously reserved those so-called "equal rights” and “freedoms” for only "approved" members of society as if the United States of America is some kind of exclusive County Club with private memberships handed out, like awards, only to those who met the subjective standards of a self-appointed, self-styled, elitist Rules Committee.
The Revolutionary War is still being fought in America as one generation after another must fight a never ending battle against tyranny. I suppose then it should come as no great surprise that a legitimate United States has yet to be born. Our society, this “family” called America is, sad to say, just a family of convenience and not one based on mutual love and respect. This is unfortunate, because any family which can so easily cast aside and abuse so many of its own children is a poor family indeed to emulate. America may be a lovely, inviting dream offering great and limitless opportunities for the privileged, the popular, and for the social conformist, but it is a relentless nightmare of social oppression and legal inequities for so many, many others.
Bud Evans is a studio artist and writer who lives in Kansas City, Kansas USA with his partner, Bill, of over thirty-one years. Bud and Bill were legally married on September 13, 2004 in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.