Reading the Naples News’s editorial justifying its coverage of new community center for the LGBT community (Aug. 19), I felt I had gone back in time. “We are hopeful that the milestone of the center will be the start of something good, substantial and sustainable.”
Milestone? Start? Perhaps the establishment of a center serving the LGBT community is, indeed, newsworthy in Southwest Florida, but the News’ editors sound as if they’ve been blind to the advances made for LGBT civil rights over the past century. An LGBT center in Fort Myers may be a new beginning, but the gay rights movement is hardly in its infancy.
For those whose memories are fading, or perhaps never new this history, Time provides a very helpful Interactive Timeline of the Fight for Gay Rights. The timeline recalls:
- the establishment of the Society for Human Rights in 1924 and the systematic repeal of state sodomy laws through the following decades;
- the historic Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969 and the medical profession’s recognition that ‘homosexuality’ never should have been called a ‘mental disorder’;
- the election of Elaine Noble to the Massachusetts legislature as the first openly gay elected official, and the election and subsequent assassination of Harvey Milk as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors;
- the hard-won battles for the rights of gay men fighting AIDS and HIV and the short-lived legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii;
- the darkest days of the Clinton presidency when he supported the military policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and signed the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) into law;
- the dawn of a new century that brought a growing number of legislative and courtroom victories recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to form loving, stable, and civilly-recognized unions;
- and most recently, this past summer’s Supreme Court decisions in effect striking down DOMA and California’s Prop 8.
The fact that an LGBT center is finally coming to Southwest Florida says many things. But rather than see this as a milestone marking the start of something new, it more accurately reflects a good and overdue next page in the story of LGBT rights. The Fort Myers LGBT center will hopefully become part of a long line of forward-moving steps made by the LGBT community and society at large in recognizing the fundamental humanity of gay men and women.
And yet … to realize how much further there is yet to travel in order to fully realize the civil rights, hopes, and dreams of LGBT Americans, one only had to turn the page in Sunday’s edition to the Perspective section. In a piece republished from GOPUSA.com, conservative African-American writer Star Parker took to task the mayor of my former hometown, the District of Columbia, for removing an anti-gay Black pastor from the city’s program honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In reminding her readers that Dr. King was also a Christian pastor, Ms. Star makes the erroneous suggestion that “Christian” equals “anti-gay.” As a man who is both gay and a fully committed Christian, I’d like Ms. Star to know that there is another perspective.
Using an anti-intellectual and fundamentalism approach to Christianity, Ms. Parker seeks to reignite that discredited notion that tries to pit African-Americans against the LGBT community when it comes to civil rights. While it’s true that African-Americans (regardless of religion) lag behind the rest of Americans on this issue, their support for same-sex marriage has increased from 28% in 2003 to 40% in 2012 (Pew Research). I suppose the views of Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, weren’t enough to convince Ms. Parker that the pursuit of gay rights is perfectly in line with the movement for civil rights so passionately pursued by Mrs. King’s martyred husband. As Mrs. King stated in 2004: “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union…. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing to protect traditional marriages.”
And so we come back to Ms. Star, whose rhetoric reflects an “-ism” perspective if ever there was one. I suppose “homophobia” is the word used these days, but she’s not really expressing “fear” as the Greek “phobia” suggests. What Ms. Star is expressing is prejudice and disdain – disdain and utter dislike for an entire group of people based not on the color of their skin or even the content of their character – but more fundamentally based on the very persons they are as created by a loving God.
Lest you think I exaggerate, let Ms. Star speak for herself:
Yet homosexuals have hijacked the civil rights movement. And in doing so, they have interjected the very values that are destroying black communities. Let’s take back our movement.
Let’s take this one unfathomable statement at a time:
- “the very values that are destroying black communities”? Pray tell, Ms. Parker, just what might those values be? The last I checked, gay rights advocates support the values of committed relationships, strong families, good schools for all children, and the freedom to live and love as God calls us to.
- “our movement”? – Really? While African Americans have contributed immeasurably to the advancement of civil rights in America, they by no means can claim exclusive ownership of those rights or that movement. I suspect that Dr. King himself would admit that Civil Rights, like Love, knows no bounds – the more we share it, the more of it there is to share.