Justice for gays, justice for all

Plymouth Congregational Church of Ft. Wayne
Plymouth Congregational Church of Ft. Wayne

What a delightful surprise I had recently when I opened the morning paper and saw a photograph on the front page of my wife Toni giving a speech at Plymouth Congregational Church.
The photo was even “above the fold,” as they say at the paper.

Before more than a hundred people from various churches, Toni was speaking out against attempts to ban gay marriage and in favor of granting this fundamental right to every person, whatever his or her sexual orientation. Just a few weeks after her talk, we joined friends, gay and straight, at the downtown convention center for a gay and lesbian dinner dance to raise money for the cause of equal rights.

Then this Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dropped the bombshell. The court declined to take up appeals by opponents of gay marriage. Before the court had been seven petitions. The non-decision was a decision. It meant that gay marriage is now legal in more than 30 states – those states where lower court decisions had struck down bans. That included Indiana.

Opponents may not give up their battle. But the constitutional scholars and other legal experts that I’ve read say that it’s only a matter of time before every state must honor the marriage of gay and lesbian couples.

I thought that Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Court of Appeals had it about right. In a recent case, he noted that the arguments of opponents to gay marriage were so full of holes that they couldn’t be taken seriously.

Surely gay marriage is one of the great civil rights issues of our time. But the federal courts aren’t the only or even the most important battleground. Like black leaders who fought segregation for generations, gay and lesbian leaders have been waging this struggle for equal rights for nearly as long.

They’ve led parades. They’ve written letters to the editor and op.ed. columns. They’ve testified before the committees of state legislatures. They’ve enlisted political leaders. They’ve enlisted ordinary people. They manned phone banks. They’ve championed the care and treatment of AIDS victims.

Straight men and women such as my wife have joined this cause for justice. You probably won’t find a town or city that doesn’t have advocates. But winning the right to marry is not the end. Even as our gay and lesbian friends celebrate their hard-fought victory today, many still will face discrimination in housing, employment and within many families. The laws on the books that should give them full access aren’t universally honored.

So all of us who care about simple justice must not think these recent victories permit us to withdraw from the battle. This is no time to be silent. This isn’t only about a minority of citizens. It’s about who we are and what we really stand for. We still must speak up for everyone’s right to be true to themselves, gay or straight. Yes, to marry. Let’s make ours a better community. Indeed, let’s make this an even greater, more just country.

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