Civil Rights and President Obama: the Second Inaugural Address

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,”

Inaugural Addresses, particularly second addresses are not generally remembered.  There is John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not” address and there is Lincoln’s Second address.  You could throw in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second.

Lincoln said these now famous words

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

FDR noted the 150th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention and spoke about the role of government.

“We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.”

and pointed out that success would be judged not by adding wealth to those who already had wealth but whether it could

“provide enough for those who [had] too little.”

Add to the great second inaugural speeches of Roosevelt and Lincoln, Barack Obama’s.

John Nichols writing in the Nation said Obama’s speech “charts the arc of history that bends toward justice.”  The President took on  the unfinished business of civil rights – in equal pay for women, voting rights for minorities, and equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.  He said

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.

Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.

Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

He echoed FDR

“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few,”

I think the speech showed that second terms can liberate and that his second term will see him push unapologetically for an agenda that includes everyone – even Republicans if they choose to listen.

Photographs: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times and Doug Mills/The New York Times

Gay marriage: not the end of the world

I always wondered what people meant when they said that gay marriage would somehow negatively affect their own marriages.  What exactly did they think would happen?  The sky would fall?  The divorce rate would sky rocket?  How would a marriage between two women or two men change anyone else’s relationship?  It has been a mystery to me ever since we had gay marriage legalized in here Massachusetts.

I just came back from a couple of days in a state which just approved gay marriage and where some marriages have taken place.  I didn’t notice that Maine was any different from the last time I was there and I guess Wiley Miller hasn’t either.  Here is today’s Non Sequitur.

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Looking back at 2012 progressively

2012 was a pretty good year for those of a progressive/liberal political point of view and Winning Progressive has compiled a good summary.  You can read the entire article here, but I’ve pulled out some of my particular favorites – in my own order of significance.

First I have to talk about Mitch McConnell who not only lost his effort to make President Obama a one-termer, but last night voted to increase taxes.  (Although since it happened after we technically went off the cliff  at midnight, he will probably spin it as a decrease.)  I think he an John Boehner were the big losers last year, not Mitt.  Mitt is done with politics, but McConnell and Boehner have to continue to try to herd their Republican members and get re-elected.

President Obama re-elected

So now to some accomplishments.

* President Obama Re-Elected With A More Diverse and Progressive Congress– The November elections saw the re-election of President Obama and the election of four new progressive U.S. Senators – Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  In addition, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is finally leaving the Senate!  On the House side, the Democrats elected in November will be the first major party caucus in US history that is majority female and people of color.  New House progressives will include Alan Grayson (FL-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Mark Tacano (CA-41), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), and Kyrsten Simena (AZ-09).  On the flip side, tea party conservatives Allen West (FL), Chip Cravaack (MN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Ann-Marie Buerkle (NY), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL) were all defeat and, hopefully, will never be heard from politically again.

* LGBT Equality– 2012 was, of course, a banner year for advancing LGBT equality.  For the first time in US history, equality was supported by a majority of voters facing ballot proposals approving marriage equality in Maine, Washington, and Maryland, and refusing to ban equality in Minnesota. The first openly lesbian U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was elected in November as were a record seven openly-gay House members.  President Obama publicly supported marriage equality, and anti-equality forces in Iowa failed in their effort to recall a state Supreme Court justice who declared that state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.  In February, a federal appellate court ruled California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and two federal courts in 2012 did the same with the Defense of Marriage Act.

* Health Care Reform – In a decision that surprised many commentators, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”And while the GOP-controlled House has voted at least 33 times to repeal ObamaCare, President Obama’s re-election in November virtually guarantees that will never occur.   In implementing ObamaCare, the Obama Administration, standing up to strong opposition from conservative religious organizations, finalized rules requiring that contraception be included as a preventive health service that insurance policies must cover with no co-pay.  This will help millions of women afford access to birth control and also save money by reducing unintended pregnancies.

Those are my personal big three.

Yes, there is a lot left to do and a lot that happened that I didn’t particularly think was terrific, but on the first day of a new year, we should celebrate our successes!

The Supremes and getting married

Marriage is several things.  It is a contract between two people recognized by the state and it is a spiritual and, for some, a religious bond.  When my parents were married in a Buddhist ceremony, one of their friends, a Jewish lawyer, is alleged to have said in a stage whisper, “It doesn’t matter what ritual is used, it’s still just a contract.”  I wish I had thought to ask him about this when I became an adult, but true or not it makes a nice story.

Yes, same sex couples can live together and in some places they can have a recognized civil union which may provide some benefits, but it is not the same as being married.  I can tell you from personal experience that they create very different states of mind.  Being married provides a level of comfort and security just living together does not.  And part of this comes from marriage being a contract.  Yes, all types of relationships fail and they fail for as many reasons as there are failures, but marriages are more difficult to sever therefore can provide more of a base on which a relationship can grow.

I’ve been writing about gay marriage as states are added to the list and I’ve been watching the attitude of the country toward gay marriage change.  Chris Cillizza posted two helpful charts on his Washington Post blog, the Fix.

Pretty amazing change is a relatively short period of time.  And Democrats have gone from not wanting to touch the issue to running for office supporting gay marriage in the space of one presidential election cycle.  This change was reflected at the ballot box.  I am happy that Washington State, Maryland, and Maine voted to legalize same sex marriage, but I still have this voice in the back of my head that says equal rights are not something that should be determined by a majority vote.

The Boston Globe reported

Last month, Washington, Maine, and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

And now the Supreme Court will be ruling on the issue.  The New York Times explains

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The California case was brought by the two lawyers who were on opposing sides in the infamous, Bush v. Gore case, Ted Olson and David Boies.  The second case is one of several that challenged the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  It is interesting that the Massachusetts case is not the one being heard.

There was reason to think that Justice Elena Kagan was not free to hear an appeal from the Boston case because she had worked on it or a related case as United States solicitor general. The current solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., gave the court a number of other options, including Windsor, probably partly to make sure that a case of such importance could be heard by a full nine-member court.

Edith Windsor of New York sued to be treated as a surviving spouse

The Obama Administration is not defending DOMA.

Chris Cillizza ended his post with this thought.

Go deeper into the Pew numbers — and thanks to Pew, you can! —  and you see why those trend lines won’t be reversing themselves.  In 2011-2012, 62 percent of people 18-29 supported gay marriage — by far the strongest support among any age group. During that same time period, just 32 percent of those 65 or older supported gay marriage.

The simple truth: Support for gay marriage tracks directly with age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support it. Given that, it’s hard to imagine gay marriage getting less popular as the years go on.

Whatever the Supreme Court does with its two gay marriage cases next year, the die has been cast on the politics of the issue. By the 2016 presidential election, this could well be a decided issue that neither party — yes, that includes Republicans — spends much time talking about.

My guess is that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA and rule that states can allow gay marriage if they want.  We will see in a few months if I’m right.

Photograph – Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

A huge win

Americans voted to give President Obama a second chance to change Washington.

The re-election of Barack Obama last night was a huge win in many ways.  I went to bed after the confetti dropped in Chicago and woke up too early with my head still spinning.  I figure I can sleep later.  So who won besides the President?  Here are a few of my thoughts.

Last night was a win for everyone who has been supporting a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans.  Politico summarizes the exit polling this way

Six in 10 voters nationwide say they think taxes should be increased, a welcome  statistic for President  Barack Obama and a sign that the president’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s  proposed tax cuts  for the wealthy may have been effective.

Almost half of voters said taxes should be boosted on Americans making more than  $250,000 per year, and one in seven voters said taxes should be increased on all  Americans.

I think the Democratic wins in the Senate as well as the President’s re-election reflect this.  It is a loss for Grover Nordquist perhaps Republicans in Congress can now forget that silly pledge and negotiate all the fiscal and budget issues hanging over us.

This was a big win for the ground game over big money.  The Adelsons, Roves and Kochs of the world can’t buy an election. The Senate wins by Tim Kaine and Sherrod Brown showed that if you turn out voters, all the negative spending on advertising can’t buy the election.  I watched and worked the ground game here in Massachusetts using the same database that was used by Democrats all over the country.  All the information added this election should only help Democrats in the future.  This email sent last night under the President’s name tells the story

I’m about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There’s a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.

The election was a huge win for people of color,  for marriage equality (Maine and Maryland, and probably Minnesota) and for an American that is changing.  From the Washington Post

The electorate was less white (from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent this year), more Latino (9 percent to 10 percent), just as African-American (13 percent to 13 percent), more female (53 percent to 54 percent), more low-income (38 percent making less than $50,000 in 2008 to 41 percent Tuesday) and — perhaps most remarkably, younger (18 percent to 19 percent).

It all suggests that Obama’s laser-like focus on turning out each of his key constituencies — minorities, women and young people — paid dividends.

And in many cases, these groups backed him as much or more as in 2008.

Women gave Obama 55 percent of the vote and low-income voters gave him 60 percent, about the same as four years ago.

Latinos gave Obama 67 percent of their vote four years ago, and 71 percent on Tuesday.

I think the racially tinged and anti-immigrant Republican campaign made people angry and they were angry enough to come out to vote.  Until the Republican party learns to deal with the changing demographics in this country, they will become more and more powerless.

And my final thought for right now – this was a huge win for Nate Silver.  For those of us who put our trust in him, this was vindication.  His final map looks suspiciously like the final map but if Florida continues today as it is trending, I think he underestimated the Electoral College vote.  Nate predicted 313 electoral votes but with Florida it will be 332.

[Photograph:  Doug Mills/The New York Times]

Chris Kluwe and Gay Marriage

If you don’t follow football, aren’t from Minnesota, and didn’t read the New York Times article you probably don’t know who Chris Kluwe is and why his support of gay marriage is such a big deal.  Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Minnesota Viking professional football team.  Professional sports are one of the last bastions of closeted men and women (although maybe less so for women since Martina Navratilova came out all those many years ago).  But I don’t know of any man with an active career who has come out.  And given that about 10% of the population is thought to be gay, about 10% of male professional athletes are likely to be gay.  There is still a stigma.

Let Kluwe explain how he first voiced support for gay marriage.

In late August, the Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote to the Baltimore Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, urging him to silence linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo had been supporting the state’s Civil Marriage Protection Act, which will allow gay couples to obtain a civil marriage license beginning Jan. 1 if it passes a Nov. 6 referendum. Burns asked Bisciotti to “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.”

“I know of no other N.F.L. player who has done what Mr. Ayambadejo is doing,” Burns wrote, misspelling Ayanbadejo’s surname.

Nine days later, at 11:30 p.m. in the master bedroom of the modest Savage, Minn., home that Kluwe shares with his wife, Isabel, and daughters, Olivia, 4, and Remy, 2, Kluwe came across Burns’s dispatch while surfing the Web.

“So I’m lying in bed, and I keep thinking over and over about this letter, and I’m like, ‘I can’t fall asleep,’ ” he recalled. “I have to write something.”

So he pulled off the covers, turned on his MacBook Pro and spent less than an hour composing a response to Burns that was published on Deadspin.com and lifted Kluwe off the sports pages and into the national conversation about the rights of same-sex couples.

“This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom?” he wrote. “Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life?”

The letter is a profanity-laden rant, as well as a multilayered, point-by-point decimation of Burns’s argument, so insidiously thorough that Burns waved the white flag two days later in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in which he said, in effect, “Never mind.”

You should click the link and read the letter.

Kluwe is a man who described himself to the Times by saying “Football is what I do for a living, but it’s not even remotely who I am.”  As the Times article points out he is smart, articulate and extremely well read.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe practicing music with his band. (Photograph:  Stephen Maturen for The New York Times)

But his letter about the Maryland marriage equality referendum is not his only support for gay marriage.

What added to Kluwe’s angst that night in his bedroom was the proposed amendmentto the Minnesota Constitution known as Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“There are only 4 percent of Minnesotans undecided on this question,” says Richard Carlbom, the campaign manager of the coalition Minnesotans United for All Families, an umbrella organization for more than 600 groups working to defeat the amendment. “Right now it’s a dead heat.”

Kluwe lent his brash voice against the amendment, appearing in radio advertisements and writing a letter on behalf of Minnesotans for Equality, a fund-raising arm of Minnesotans United for All Families. He recently began selling T-shirts printed with two of the more colorful terms from his letter to Burns. Proceeds will be split between Kluwe’s charity, Kick for a Cure, which benefits children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Minnesotans for Equality.

So what has been the reaction of the NFL and his teammates?

Handling such politically delicate matters is new territory for the N.F.L., which has recently been assaulted by concussion issues, player bounties and inept replacement referees. When asked to comment about the Ayanbadejo situation during a Politico forumin September, Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Listen, I think in this day and age, people are going to speak up about what they think is important. They speak as individuals, and I think that’s an important part of our democracy.”

Paul Tagliabue, the previous N.F.L. commissioner, said he planned to donate $100,000 to support same-sex marriage in Maryland.

Despite the league’s macho culture, Kluwe said: “I had quite a few teammates come up to me and say: ‘We appreciate you speaking out in support of Brendon. We may not agree with you on that marriage issue, but at the same time everybody has got the right to speak.’ And then I’ve had a couple teammates come up and say, ‘We agree with you, we think you did the right thing, and that was a great letter you wrote.’ ”

Chris Kluwe is unique.  He not only wants to speak out but he has the ability to do so and for that supporters of marriage equality should be grateful to him –  and to Brendon Ayanbadejo.

NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo at the 2007 Pro ...

The President and Gay Marriage

The commentators are in full flower.  “This is a great move.”  “It is risky.”  “This could cost him the election.”  What does it really mean?  We won’t know until the election in November, but we can try to bring some clarity to some of the noise.

Photograph by Pete Souza

We know that many of those who oppose gay marriage for religious or other grounds will never be convinced, but I expect that some will come around to saying something like “I personally don’t support gay marriage, but as a matter of rights, people should be able to choose.”  Kind of like what many Democrats have said about abortion.  But the majority of the opposition will remain opposed. 

Some will say this was a cynical move on the part of the President to solidify his gay and lesbian supporter.  I don’t think so.  Richard Socarides wrote in the New Yorker

For a long time, Democrats have taken the gay vote for granted. Political consultants tell Democrats that gay and lesbian voters have nowhere else to go, and thus, in effect, can be counted on, so long as politicians pay lip service to the issue. But that is old thinking, out of touch with the new reality of the gay-rights movement. While I know that most gays and lesbians would have supported President Obama, both with their votes and with their financial contributions, no matter what he did on the issue of marriage equality, we were also not going to take “no” for an answer on the most important civil-rights issue of our day. That meant holding the President’s feet to the fire—first on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and then on marriage equality.

What we do know is that this was an act of courage and leadership.  President Obama may be part of the tide rising toward marriage equality, but he is part of the leading edge.  Andrew Sullivan

I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn’t know what to write, and, like many Dish readers, there are tears in my eyes.

The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees – as we all see – that you cannot have one without the other. But even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen. It was a moment – way off the record at the time – that clinched my support for him.

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

Both Sullivan and Socarides do believe that in the long run, this will not hurt Obama’s reelection chances.  Sullivan first

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Then Socarides

This is not to take anything away from the courage exhibited by President Obama today. His willingness to share with the American people his thinking, indeed, his struggle around this issue will help build a national consensus. Everyone is entitled to a journey on this issue.

I suspect that at the end of this national conversation the result will be a good one, and the process, including Obama’s painstakingly slow evolution, will have been a positive experience for the country. Hopefully, it will lead us in a positive direction—which, after all, is the job of a President.

This is a conversation that is just beginning and we owe the President a conversation that is at once passionate and reasoned.  Let me end with this from him

This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.

 

Civil Rights and Gay Rights

In case you didn’t see it, Jonathan Capehart had an excellent and thoughtful essay in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Titled “Blacks and gays:  the shared struggle for civil rights”, it laid out the reasons why blacks (and I might add Asians, Hispanics and other minorities) need to support gay rights.  I am going to try to give you the highlights, but you really should read the entire essay.

It opens

You may recall that last month Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and I sparred over same-sex marriageon “Morning Joe.” You may also recall that at the end of the interview, the show’s anchor, Joe Scarborough, asked me, “[W]ould you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.”

“It’s an issue of civil rights, as you said. It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,” I said. “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

That didn’t go over so well with more than a few African Americans. They don’t see the struggles as comparable, equivalent or even related. Last Wednesday, @Brokenb4God tweeted to me, “@CapehartJ still can’t believe u think the choice of being gay is congruent to the struggle of blacks. Ain’t never seen no gay plantations!”

Clearly, she’s from the misguided pray-the-gay-away cabal, so no need to address that. I’ll leave the cheap and provocative “gay plantations” stink bomb alone, too, and get to my main point. What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.

Capehart goes through several points of similarity under topic headings:  “Bullying and Murder”, “Denied equal protection:  the right to marry” and finally, “Black leaders.”  He quotes Reverend Al Sharpton and John Lewis.  Lewis quoted Dr. Martin Luther King during the debate in 1996 on the Defense of Marriage Act. 

You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say when people talked about interracial marriages, and I quote, ‘Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.’ Why don’t you want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

Lewis supported Massachusetts activists during the debate over marriage equality.

In a 2003 opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Lewis wrote, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”

Much of the resistance to the Maryland Marriage Equality law came from black churches who are traditionally unwilling to acknowledge a gay and lesbian presence in their own communities.  One exception is my husband’s church, Union United Methodist in Boston.  Their pioneering was highlighted in this recent article in the Boston Globe

Eziah Karter-Sabir Blake swiped the play debit card through a plastic reader during a game of Monopoly recently. Another multimillion-dollar sale. The buyer, Giftson Joseph, rubbed his hands together, a glimmer creeping in his eyes as he playfully nudged the Rev. Catharine A. Cummings.

The three – one gay, one transgender, one straight – sat around a table at a new youth drop-in center at Union United Methodist Church, a historically black congregation in the South End, the heart of Boston’s gay community.

Simply by being there, the trio was straddling a divisive line between the gay community and the black church, where many gay and lesbian minorities have long felt ignored or unwelcome in the pews.

“It’s a big risk they are taking in the black community,’’ said Joseph, an 18-year-old African-American college student who is gay. “There’s already enough stigma in the church. But this is a church that is accepting of all races and sexual orientations.’’

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In 2000, Union began the process of educating themself about homosexuality and gay rights.

 In 2000, church member Hilda Evans pushed Union United to again change course, and the church agreed to defy United Methodist leaders by declaring itself an open and affirming congregation to gays and straight people alike. It held its first gay service in June 2007 at the height of the state’s same-sex marriage debate.

Other black church leaders and churches in Boston have not followed Union’s lead.  But as the Globe story pointed out

Union United has a long history of bucking tradition. In the 1800s, black worshipers walked out of their segregated Beacon Hill church home after whites grew uncomfortable and complained about their vibrant, African-style of worship. In 1818, members founded the May Street Church, which became a stop on the Underground Railroad, according to the church’s website,

What the Globe does not point out is Union’s civil rights activism during the 1960’s.  You can read about that in the J. Anthony Lukas classic, Common Ground..

It takes a long time for people to see themselves in someone else’s stuggle but we can look at Jonathan Capehart for his articulate arguments about what is right and to places like Union United Methodist Church for leading the way.

Maryland makes eight

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has just signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.  This bring the total number of states to eight.

 

 

(Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) celebrates with Rep. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), left, and Rep. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), all three of whom are openly gay, after the Senate approved a gay marriage bill. (Patrick Semansky – AP) )

According to the Washington Post

In one of the grandest stagings for any bill signing in recent memory, O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D- Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) sat at a table erected at the bottom of a marble staircase leading to the second floor of the State House and O’Malley’s office.

Behind O’Malley was Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and First Lady Katie O’Malley who had also advocated forcefully for the bill.

More than 50 gay rights leaders and clergy members lined the ascending staircase. Hundreds of onlookers, lawmakers and 15 television cameras crowded in the hallway.

“For a free and diverse people, for a people of many faiths, for a people committed to the principle of religious freedom, the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all, for the human dignity of all,” O’Malley said.

The Maryland law will take effect on January 1, 2013 provided it is not repealed by referendum in November.  But let us be optimistic and know that Maryland will join Washington (as of June 7), Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and the District of Columbia as a place where everyone is free to marry the person of their choosing.  So far, the sky has not fallen.