The gay rights movement has clearly become the civil rights struggle of today. Everything from employment rights to marriage equality is a part of this clash, and the battle lines have been drawn. It’s a wedge that tears apart families, churches, political parties, and even whole denominations.
Gay activists have been vocal for decades. In the early days, outspoken gays used silence as its tool — as the members of the Mattachine society picketed in silence while carrying pro-gay signs that included such controversial rhetoric as “homosexuals are American citizens, too.” Later, the the rainbow community exploded onto the scene with the Stonewall riots. As time passed, we saw the rise of gay politicians and a highly vocal group of gay activists. Also in the mix was the plethora of gay satirists who used the weapon of wit and humor to educate and inform.
Since then, we’ve seen major victories for the LGBT population. In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the list of disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. Sodomy laws began to drop like flies. The last few of them were struck down in 2003 by the United States Supreme Court. Gays serve openly in the military. This year, every single fortune 100 company has policies that protect their LGBT employees.
Gay marriage is legal in several states. Civil unions are legal in a few more. Still more have various domestic partnership policies.
But then there are the states which have no protections. Tennessee is one of them. In fact, the Republican-led legislature has gone out of its way to find new ways to treat its gay citizens as steerage on a sinking ship of bigotry. Even second class would be nice in some states. No employment protection. No housing protection. Marriage? Hell. We can’t even hold hands in this state without being subject to ridicule and jeering.
Which brings me to the one single group that can turn the tide for LGBT rights. I’m talking to YOU, straight person. Yes, you.
Historically, it’s always the people who have the pie that must be willing to share it. Women wouldn’t have the right to vote if it weren’t for the men who made it possible. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have been filed — let alone passed — if it relied only on the actions of African-Americans.
Throughout history, the torch can only be carried to its goal if those who have the power — and the privilege — are willing to speak up for those who don’t.
It’s not enough to simply support us. We need your actions. We need your votes. We need your convictions.
Last night, I visited an event held at Austin Peay State University, presented by the school’s gay-straight alliance. The evening included a viewing of the poignant yet entertaining documentary Fish out of Water by Ky Dickens. After the movie, two local pastors — both Methodists — shared their experience in ministering to the LGBT people of their community. Rev. Jodie McCullah said very well, “We straight people are the ones who are needed the most in this struggle.” She spoke with heart, conviction, and genuine passion. She also spoke the hard truth.
It’s not enough to simply be “supportive” of your gay family member and friends. We need your VOICE. We need your actions. We need you to tell those who speak negatively against LGBT people to say that it’s just not okay to belittle your family or friends.
As I’ve said before, don’t tell me that “not all people are like that.” I don’t need to hear it. Your friends do. Your family members need to hear it. Your pastor needs to hear it.
It’s a lot to ask, I know.
But until we have the voices of Americans from all walks of life speaking on our behalf, we’re going to continue to fight an uphill battle.
We need you. History needs you. Dear friend, I need you. Won’t you add your voice to ours, and let’s put the great injustice of bigotry and prejudice against gays — in the past, where it belongs?
You won’t regret it.