David Mixner wrote this morning that what we had in this country was a system of “gay apartheid”, given that Maine has become the latest state to take away from its citizens the right to pursue happiness through civil marriage.
I came across David’s essay courtesy of BJ Hersh on Twitter, as I was stretching for my morning run. That run allowed me to think, and elaborate on my immediate thought, which was, “Damn straight!”.
Then I thought some more.
David’s right – we’re codifying – through the ballot, the legislature and the courts – a system of gay apartheid, where gays are denied the same rights that straights take for granted. Now, I’m a little hesitant to say this, because I’m straight, but this isn’t about gay rights; it’s about human rights.
If we’re talking about human rights, then we’re not just talking about gay apartheid – though that’s the most obvious formulation this morning, when so many of my friends are furious and grieving. We’re talking about apartheid, period.
A week ago, I got an email from someone who read some of the stuff that I wrote, and who happened to glance at my Twitter avatar. For those of you who don’t know, I’m using this logo as my avatar:
It’s an ideogram of a woman, with the word “DENIED” superimposed. It was borne out of a woman having had her health treated as a “pre-existing condition” by an insurance company.
Long story short, the writer asked me why that was my avatar, and what that had to do with being a Latino man. We bickered back and forth – and I think my response serves just as well here.
We’re all in this together. That truth has been expressed many, many times, by people more eloquent than I, yet it bears repeating, and even pounding the table with it.
I’m a man, but if a woman’s rights are being violated, then there’s no guarantee that mine won’t; I’m straight, but if my friends Brian and Simon can only celebrate their wedding anniversary because of legal and temporal serendipity, then what certainty do I have that I’ll have full standing in America’s legal system?
You think there isn’t apartheid in America, plain and simple? Tell it to the women of the Plains states, who have to travel hundreds – if not thousands – of miles to have access to medical procedures that should be performed without question or opprobrium? Or hell, tell it to Dr. George Tiller’s wife, who was widowed by an assassin in a house of peace.
You think apartheid is an exaggeration? Then how do you explain the endless legal harrassment and maneuvering that accompanies Blacks and Latinos across this country? When someone stands up and starts hollering about the damn “illegal aliens”, they’re not talking about fair-skinned damsels from Sweden and strapping lads from Poland; they’re talking about Latinos, and don’t you be mistaken about that. Hell, tell it to me – it took me a whole damn year to get an ID card from the state of Colorado, all because my name is Rafael Noboa Rivera, and not John Evans Smith.
No, there’s apartheid in America. Let no one be mistaken about that; let no one be in denial of that simple, stark fact. As much as I believe that the moral arc of the universe is long, and bends towards justice for all, this morning that arc seems exhaustingly long, painfully unyielding, and even agonizing in its gloating over justice denied in some quarters.
There’s apartheid in America this dark morning, however bright the sun may shine. As long as our American apartheid persists, sustained by anger, fear, cowardice and hate, our union cannot be perfected.
It can only be corrupted.