Sometimes it’s nice to stop pushing for a minute and recognize that, indeed, the “arc of the universe…bends toward justice.”
Despite (or perhaps even partially because of) the passage of California’s Prop 8 last November, much progress has been made of late in the long struggle for LGBT rights. Just this year, the number of U.S. states to legalize gay marriage jumped from two to six. And this week, President Obama announced that federal employees will be permitted to share some of their benefits with same-sex partners. (Allowing same-sex partners to share full health benefits will require legislation.)
LGBT Rights are Civil Rights
An often-overlooked benefit of this particular civil rights movement is that it obliterates lines of class, ethnicity, race, geography and politics. While a white, heterosexual couple is probably not going to produce an African-American child, they could very well produce a gay one. Homosexuality can be a tremendously effective reminder of the diversity that defines our species. You simply can’t run away from it, so even if it makes you uncomfortable, you may as well learn tolerance and, eventually, appreciation for all kinds of people.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is a case in point of someone who probably had to overcome significant personal reservations in order to make room in his heart for his openly gay daughter. The fact that he has come out publicly in support of gay marriage speaks volumes about the potential for a widening circle of compassion.
Varied LGBT Communities Creating Bonds from Movement to Movement
This circle needs widening even among progressives, however, as the current struggle for gay rights is going to show. The fallout from Prop 8 created tension in California between two historically oppressed minorities – gays and African Americans – when some in the gay community publicly lashed out against African Americans, approximately 6 in 10 of whom supported Proposition 8. California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass argued that “No on 8” advocates failed to outreach in a significant way to African-American members of the LGBT community, that this oversight needlessly reminded African-Americans of the history of white racism, and that the resulting tension cost the campaign valuable momentum.
The fight for equality for same-sex couples goes on, of course, offering more opportunities for many different communities – each with their own LGBT community within it – to work together and in so doing, to create bonds that last from movement to movement.
Sweatshop-Free T-shirts for Pride
The upcoming Pride Parade in San Francisco is one such opportunity. We were excited to get a call from a group of Jews (both LGBT and their straight allies) representing synagogues and mainstream Jewish institutions across the Bay Area, looking for sweatshop-free t-shirts that proclaim their solidarity with the LGBT marchers.
Working on this project has been extremely rewarding because of the forward progress it represents in so many different areas: recognizing our role as consumers in creating justice for workers around the world whom we may never meet; resisting complacency when the rights of others hang in the balance; and proudly adhering to one’s own cultural identity while simultaneously pushing on that culture to embrace diversity.
The parade is June 28th, so be sure to come back here to check out the photos of hundreds of Jews marching for LGBT rights, wearing sweatshop-free t-shirts. Meanwhile, here are some links to read about the “Jews March for Pride” project.