It’s been a rough and tumble few weeks on the road to marriage equality. We’ve seen ups and downs, moments of despair and moments of great hope. Emotions have run high on both sides of the issue.
Last week, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the bill’s key Senate sponsor, made the case for marriage equality advocates and supporters to keep their message positive, rather than resort to nastiness or threats. She’s right.
When you boil it down, we progressives are fighting now a fight that we’ve fought so many times before in history. Our fight is about positive rights, about affirmational policy, about granting equality where there is inequality, about providing justice and opportunity where there were none. About giving everyone a shot at the American Dream, not just some. About moving our state forward. The other side is looking to deny and prevent and delay progress kicking and screaming if need be for as long as possible. We shouldn’t sink to their level.
One of the striking contrasts at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of S1967 (which was a judiciously and fairly-run hearing for which Senator Sarlo deserves much credit and appreciation) was the fundamental character of both sides. Marriage equality supporters were committed, loving families and children, ordinary folk just wanting to get on with their lives and be left alone. Clergy and community leaders. Legal scholars. Medical professionals. Legendary civil rights leaders. Both gay and straight spoke. The testimony was heartfelt, moral, and striking.
In deep contrast, the other side resorted to typical fear-mongering and scare tactics. That marriage equality would lead to polygamy and bestiality. That gay people are making a choice and weren’t born that way, so they should be less than equal. That marriage equality would lead to depravity being taught in our educational system. That it would, in fact, cause the sky to fall.
We’ve seen this movie before. We, and people of conscience, know all those things to be terribly false, horrific distortions designed to incite fear and to intimidate. But as Martin Luther King, Jr.–whose legacy endorsed marriage equality recently in the words of John Lewis and through the powerful voice of Julian Bond– said, “Dark cannot drive out dark; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We must not respond in kind to vicious name-calling and bigotry, as much as it pains us (and it does so deeply). Negativity, name-calling, and threats only close minds that we need to open. Like King said, we must respond with positivity and with making our case. With light, and with love.
Like Gandhi said so many years ago, we must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Let’s get our Gandhi on. Let’s draw another contrast by making the case that equality and fairness are real family values, while the other side calls our LGBT friends sinners and sickos and shovels hate speech upon them. Let’s rise to the bigness of the moment, not shrink to the smallness or pettiness of the other side. Let’s push forward and not look back. Let’s be positive.
And let’s fight like hell. Because justice and fairness for our LGBT brothers and sisters has already waited long enough.