Connie Schultz: 39 states still treat gay citizens like modern-day lepers
By Connie Schultz
Like most families, my brood is a complex configuration of souls, so I greeted this week’s flurry of Supreme Court decisions with a conflicted heart.
This is true for most anyone who paid attention to the court rulings, I imagine. This latest round reflects parts of our culture we either want to embrace or want to reject. No middle ground here. It’s all peaks and valleys, the perfect graphic to illustrate our country’s divisions these days.
Initially, I was overjoyed to hear that the court had struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act — a ridiculously named law that did nothing but harm to innocent people and their families for 17 years. Finally, the U.S. government must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples, and the earth didn’t tremble, not even a little bit.
Immediately, my mind was flooded with the faces of so many gay men and women who populate our daily lives — good people, crazy loyal and with a patience no one has the right to ask of them.
My mood was quickly tempered by the wake-up jolt of reality. Thirty-nine states still treat their gay citizens like modern-day lepers, passing bills and referendums as redundant as they are hateful. The DOMA decision does nothing to stop states from continuing to discriminate against men and women whose only crime is to be different from the people who fear them for reasons they can’t explain, even to themselves.
A lot of people who oppose marriage equality like to blame God for their bigotry. In my version of heaven, I get to watch them try to explain themselves.
Meanwhile, down here on earth, every time I hear someone talk about how God hates homosexuality — that whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” malarkey — I think of my late mother, whose faith survived countless trials in her 62 years.
“Being a Christian means fixing yourself and helping others,” she used to say, “not the other way around.” That’s a lifetime of work summed up right there.
Nine years ago, my husband and I were married by a minister who still cannot wed her longtime partner simply because they live in Ohio instead of Massachusetts, say, or any other state in New England where same-sex marriage is legal.
To this day, friends and family who attended our wedding want to talk about how moved they were by Pastor Kate’s sermon at our service. To this minute, Pastor Kate cannot legally claim Jackie — beloved to all of us — as her spouse, even as she works for the United Church of Christ every single day.
God’s will, you understand.
Also this week, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act by ruling that Section 4 of the 1965 law is now unconstitutional. This particular section provides a formula to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal government clearance before they can change their voting laws.
Historically, the voters targeted by these attempts to reduce their numbers are people of color. Also historically, Republicans are behind these changes, but they pinkie swear that it has nothing to do with how few people of color vote for them.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written about these Republican stunts to suppress the vote. I can’t think of anything more patriotic than helping every eligible voter cast a ballot.
As I age, however, and our children grow up and marry, my patriotic fervor has become to-the-bone personal.
Our 5-year-old grandson bears his mother’s family name, which is Puerto Rican. Our future son-in-law emigrated with his family from El Salvador when he was a child. Republicans are not, shall we say, big fans.
As Columbia University professor Rodolfo O. de la Garza explained in an op-ed in February for The New York Times, America’s Latinos are increasingly the new Republican target for all things sinister.
“The nation does not acknowledge the discrimination Latinos have undergone,” he wrote. “Today, many public officials from states across the nation seem to feel free to treat Latinos as unwelcome newcomers and view Latino voters with suspicion. Republicans are especially leery of Latino voters who are perceived to be noncitizens or, even worse, Democrats.
“Without the law’s threat of federal intervention, I fear that the promise of Latino political equality will stagnate.”
That’s my family he’s talking about.
Fortunately, by 2043, that will be most American families in this country, as the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that that’s the year the white majority will be history.
This white granny’s going to eat a really healthful diet between now and then because I want to live to see that day.