Finally, somebody got it right! We are living in a time where many seem to want to return to the ostensibly halcyon days when states chose whether or not they wanted to abide by anti-discrimination laws. Segregation, though upheld by Plessy v. Ferguson, was not coincident with the trajectory of this country in terms of civil rights. It was a backlash against Reconstruction and the abolition of slavery. States rights advocates argued for interposition, nullification, poll taxes, redlining, sundown laws, white and colored signs, and so forth—anything to keep African Americans from acquiring equal opportunities and egalitarian treatment.
Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, got it right when he lambasted Gov. Chris Christie and other Republicans for wanting to put gay marriage to a people’s vote. Booker recognized the scurrilous nature of such a public denouement by Christie, who hoped that support for gay marriage would be crushed by those who want to ban it in their state. Arguing that the liberties he has enjoyed as an American citizen would not be his, including the post he holds, were civil rights for blacks held simply to a popular vote, Booker exhibited what many characterize in the abstract, “speaking truth to power.” Whereas he did not tailor his remarks against Christie per se, he certainly did not mince his words when it was pointed out that Christie and he diverged in opinion on this point.
As much as Howard Stern can be criticized for some of his antics, he is another person who has gotten it right with regards to liberties for homosexuals. He is one of the leading proponents of gay marriage, and no discrediting of him can diminish the probity of his stance for equality and protection under the law. All of the protests against gay rights will not succeed, for it is an inalienable life for people to pursue the fullest expression of who they are as long as they do not injure or dominate anybody else.
There is a growing wellspring of supporters for Ellen DeGeneres in reaction to One Million Moms’ pressure upon J. C. Penney to can her from spokesperson status. It is a testament to how far we have come since the twentieth century in terms of allowing a group’s homophobia to determine others’ actions. Penney has refused to remove DeGeneres as its spokesperson, and the regressive attempts of One Million Moms have catalyzed into massive support for DeGeneres on Twitter and Facebook.
In the early 1960s, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., wanted to defuse the popularity of Martin Luther King, Jr., by using his association with activist Bayard Rustin, who happened to be gay. For a little while, King publicly dissociated himself from Rustin, but not for long. Rustin became the leading organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph and King, where the latter rendered his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. Powell’s attempt of maintaining ascendancy as the Booker T. Washington of Harlem, would eventually fail—as did his attack on America’s Prince of Peace.
Ultimately, our culture will get used to navigating the terrain of self-expression a little bit better. Right now, we must endure the homophobia of many by not allowing them to curtail such expression and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This backlash that reared its ugly head in the 1980s along with the HIV/AIDS pandemic will, too, pass only with the persistent outcry of people like Booker, Stern, and supporters of DeGeneres. Kudos to them!