I think most of us hear “civil rights” and think Martin Luther King, marches on Washington, sit-ins at the Woolworth counter, and countless other images of the 60’s. We think of race, and perhaps class and gender. When learning about the Civil Rights Movement in elementary school, I was taught that separate but equal was an outdated and prejudiced idea. I was taught that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that this country was founded on the ideal that we are all are created equal. I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, along with the rest of the schoolchildren in this country, declaring “with liberty and justice for all” before I started my day.
Then I grew up and realized that as much as we are all probably taught that these struggles for civil rights are a part of our history, they are very very much a part of our present. I understood the meaning behind that Pledge of Allegiance I said so mindlessly every morning for more than a decade, with my hand over my heart. I learned that the American brand of equality is conditional.
Growing up in a household with deaf parents, the motto was: accept everyone. One of the most valuable things my mother instilled from an early age was the importance of tolerance and equality. She continually reminded us to treat everyone the same, because we are all people. It’s such a simple message, but it’s a powerful one.
I went to an all- women’s college. I work for it presently. I have many friends and colleagues who are gay and lesbian. I am incredibly proud to live in Massachusetts, where we have been granting gay marriages since 2004- the first state to do so in this country.
As far as I am concerned, there is more than one civil rights movement. Today we watched one of those play out in what will surely go down in history as a pivotal point in the fight for LGBT equality. When I read that DOMA is dead, I cried. It’s progress. It’s progress that should’ve been made long ago. It strikes down a despicable legacy of discrimination known as the “Defense of Marriage Act,” signed by a President who had about as much respect for his marriage as I do for Scientology (read: ZILCH.).
The Supreme Court decision today gets the federal government OUT of people’s bedrooms. It tells children of gay couples that their parents are not weird or wrong to love each other and that the family they’ve forged is just as valuable and meaningful as the one with a mom and dad. It tells gay and lesbian couples that their relationships will no longer be considered unworthy of the same protections and respect by the country in which they probably pay taxes, vote, and contribute to society. It means that loving couples can express their commitment to each other in the same way that I can. It means that they can enjoy the same legal and financial protections as heterosexual couples.
If there is ONE thing I have learned in life it’s that you cannot choose who you love. Gay or straight- doesn’t matter. You love who you love. So, a hearty thank you to the five Supreme Court Justices who decided that we will no longer SELECTIVELY grant our citizens the rights to life, liberty and equality (to the remaining four- I say, “HA. Nice try. And Clarence Thomas of the Anita Hill scandal- I can’t say I’m surprised.”). It’s a huge step in the right direction in an ongoing fight.
It’s been a banner day for Civil Rights today. Thanks to the incredible fortitude and bravery of Wendy Davis in Texas (of all places!), women there will go to bed tonight knowing they’ll wake up on more days of NOT being told what they can and can’t do with their bodies.
This fourth of July, there is so much to be thankful for. I’m proud to live in this country today- slowly, but surely, we are working towards making the words “liberty and justice for all” ring true.