Why does so much rhetoric against gay marriage sound like the arguments against civil rights in the 1960s?
"All the bayonets in the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches and our places of recreation."
-- Then-presidential candidate Strom Thurmond in a 1948 speech.
"The whole thing bespeaks of something much deeper and more insidious than "We just want to get married.' (Homosexuals) want to change the entire social order."
-- Mychal Massie, conservative columnist and member of Project 21, a Washington-based alliance of conservative black people, in a November 2003 Associated Press article.
The rhetoric used by those who oppose gay marriage sounds an awful lot like the rhetoric used when America was caught up in the debate over another important civil rights question: Do black people deserve the right to live, work and play in the same places as white people?
To a generation which can barely fathom life before the Internet or cable television, it must sound like a tale from the Stone Age. But it was less than 50 years ago when America struggled to decide how much freedom to give a people who had been freed from slavery 100 years earlier.
And we’re in the middle of the same kind of struggle, yet again.
The mistake many people make in the gay marriage debate is thinking that this issue is about marriage alone. That is the one thing both proponents and critics can agree on: This is about something much more.
Back in the 1960s, black Americans demanded the country give them their full freedoms under U.S. law; no hedging about separate-but-equal schools, restaurants and movie houses. It was time for America to fulfill a promise it had made a century earlier.
Now, gay Americans are asking for the same action. I wrote about this for the St. Petersburg Times nearly ten years ago; in many ways that are important, the struggle for gay rights mirrors the struggle black Americans fought for their civil rights a half-century ago.
I wrote: “As the country prepares to celebrate the birthday of one of the country's greatest civil rights leaders Monday, the question resurfaces: Is the fight to expand gay rights comparable to the civil rights struggle for black people that remains Martin Luther King's greatest legacy?
If so, will those opposing gay marriage laws, gay adoption rights and openly gay military service wind up on the same side of history as segregationists and alarmists who once opposed so-called "race-mixing"?
And if not, why not?”
Nine years later, I think the answer to that question is plain. The only question left, if whether our Supreme Court is honest enough with itself – and aware enough of our nation’s history – to finally admit it.