Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Speech to River Hill HS (Columbia, MD) National Honor Society--3/15/06


Character: Human rights and social conscience…

The Declaration of Independence proclaims: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."

Gaping holes in this essential principle have been patched up throughout our history by amending the Constitution. That process extended rights to African-Americans, women and other minorities whereas before they were non-existent.

However, the sad truth is that for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, there remains some unfinished business when it comes to equality and human rights.

The current controversy, as you are probably aware, surrounds marriage equality for same-sex couples.

What gays are seeking are the same rights, benefits and responsibilities that are conferred upon heterosexual couples. They would include the financial security and medical decision-making rights that heterosexual couples take for granted.

We’re not asking for religious blessings. We’re not attempting to force churches, synagogues or mosques to sanctify a union. The Constitution’s First Amendment protects these institutions from that. Civil marriages can take place in county clerk offices or city halls. In fact, 4 in 10 marriages in Maryland occur in such venues.

When Britney Spears went through that fake marriage a couple of years ago, in those short 48 hours she was entitled to some 1,100 rights and benefits. Yet my partner and I, who have been in a committed relationship for over 26 years, do not have a single one.

Our opponents say that if we were allowed to get married, it would threaten the institution of marriage.

Ask your parents…ask them if my partner and I were legally permitted to marry, would they storm off to a lawyer to seek a divorce as a result?

In Massachusetts where same-sex marriage has been in effect for nearly 2 years, the divorce rate is the lowest in the country. The sky did not fall.

Our opponents say homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Well, so is murder a sin according to the same Bible, but murderers can get married. So can thieves and other criminals. So can men who shave or women who wear blended fabrics or people who ever talked back to their parents, or eat bacon. These are all sins, but the individuals who commit them are not barred from marrying.

The religious extremists cherry-pick passages from Scripture and had used the same arguments to justify racism and to prevent interracial marriages. And they do it to justify their homophobia. Our social conscience cannot allow a repeat of that type of bigotry.

It is clear the opposition is not concerned about protecting marriage because if they were they would rail against divorce, adultery, out-of-wedlock births, poverty, and domestic violence—all of which threaten the stability of marriage. Divorce alone accounts for the destruction of half of all marriages.

It’s not about protecting marriage at all. It’s all about homophobia. These people are opposed to anything that provides gays with equal status. To them, we are second-class citizens, and they want us back into the closet or as was advocated recently by one candidate for Senate in Ohio—the death penalty.

Folks, sad to say, extremism is very much alive in this country.

The political and religious rhetoric and bigotry that is unleashed as a result of homophobia is a human rights threat, a threat to our character, and a threat to the fabric of our society. Homophobia is very much a threat…Equality isn’t.

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