A Matter of Human Rights
A few nights ago I had a terrible dream, so real and so intense it woke me up. In that dream I found myself living in a land where I wasn’t allowed to decide who I could love, or how I could express that love – no one had such a right. The people in that benighted place were only allowed certain choices, their options limited by what a majority of their fellow citizens would allow.
When I awoke from the dream I couldn’t go back to sleep. It was early in the morning, probably around 4:00 or 4:30, and I laid there in the dark, thinking about the dream and how it made me feel – and how it would make anyone feel. And I came to realize that I do live in such a society, a place where the quality and strength of anyone’s love is not so important as the choice of whom that love is for.
You think I’m wrong? Let’s consider a few things: If I choose a partner who has a different religious background than mine I’ll certainly face opposition and criticism. If I choose a partner who has a different cultural heritage the same sentiments apply, and it would be compounded if that partner were from a different ethnic group. If you have any doubt about that contention think about how most people react to a racially mixed couple, especially an African American man with a white woman – at best there’s a very thin social veneer of politeness covering discomfort with such a pair, and until recently several states had laws against “interracial” marriages, putting the official stamp on bigotry.
“But those laws are all gone now – we aren’t allowed to discriminate against people because of race, religion or creed. And you can’t change people’s opinions just by changing a law.” I’ve heard all that many, many times. Some very bad laws have been repealed and other laws have replaced them, new laws that ban discriminating against me if I love a woman from a different religion or who has a different level of skin pigmentation. But what if I love another man?
There is a growing movement in the United States, a movement that condemns and calls for discriminating against homosexual men and women. An increasingly loud and determined percentage of Americans would deny to gays and lesbians equal protection under the law, and encourages discrimination in employment, housing, health care and many other areas. Some of the more extreme voices in that chorus condone, implicitly or even explicitly, open, violent hatred against homosexuals. It is these voices of hatred and intolerance that have caused a rapid increase in crimes committed against people perceived to be gay or lesbian.
Many gay-bashers claim that “only” one percent of the American population is gay or lesbian. That one percent is two and one half million people, or roughly the equivalent of the populations of Houston and Dallas combined. There would be no moral authority for telling everyone in Dallas and Houston that they could never have a job teaching children because they would “recruit” children into the Texas “life-style”. There would be no right to deny those same people equal access to health care because being from either of those cities is an “offensive and unnatural” way to live to the majority of us who don’t live there. The gay and lesbian percentage of the population of America may be as high as ten percent and, if so, what’s going on is the equivalent of telling everyone from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana that they are diseased, undesirable and contemptible simply because they were born in one of those states or choose to live there. What is immoral, plain and simple, is to deny anyone the right to love whom they please as best they can simply because some people don’t understand, approve of or accept that choice.
The issue is not one of “gay and lesbian” rights or “homosexual” rights – it is an issue of human rights. Each of us individually and all of us as collectively must be concerned that we live our own lives to the best of our abilities and give others the right to do the same. If I choose to love another man it’s no one’s concern but his and mine, and if my neighbor loves another woman, she must be given the absolute right and the unwavering protection of the law to do so. Love is not so cheap a commodity that any honest expression of it should be denied simply because the bigoted and judgmental among us don’t understand it.
It doesn’t matter if twenty-five million people or two and one half million people or only two people are gay or lesbian – it’s time to end the nightmare for everyone who is guilty of nothing more than loving another human being.