Friday, June 26, 2015


One hour ago the Supreme Court of the United States issued the historic ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout the nation. Those of us who have lived long enough to witness or experience persecution and discrimination against gay Americans from the mid-20th century until now are still reeling. Our faith in the system just got a significant boost.  And those citizens who are much younger have just been handed a freedom that many of us could not have predicted.

As a gay man in America, I have experienced all of the predictable barbs, shuns and injustices, just like every other gay person. I know what it is to live your life in silence, rather than in sunlight. I lived almost 40 years before I decided to live authentically as a gay American. That’s a long time. I did everything they told boys to do who were born in mid-20th century: dated girls, went to college, married a wonderful girl, worked in the corporate system – but all in the guise of someone I really was not. My story is by no means unique. Sadly, millions of American boys and men did just what I did. The very last thing we ever expected was to be able to love another man openly, and marry him. We are stunned, to say the least. How different our lives may have been had this ruling come down 40 years ago, we will never know.

Inside all the joy we feel at the Court’s validation of our freedom, there is still the realization that every time one reaches a socio/political milestone, somehow "they" move the line up a bit further. So here is a list of issues that still concern me in this slow and steady race to equality:
I never want to see another young boy or girl feel so alienated from his or her family and peers that suicide seems the only answer.
Never again do I want to see a person randomly and viciously attacked on the street because of his or her sexuality. I do not want to see another working adult denied career advancement simply because the good old boys club does not admit gay members. I hope never again to witness a gay couple denied access or adoption privileges to their children. There should not be one more child living on the streets because his or her parents simply dismissed them due to their sexuality. I don’t want to hear religious zealots tell me that we can pass all the laws we want to pass, but same-gender loving relationships are still immoral. I defy one more production company to produce a sitcom or a romantic comedy in which one or more of the characters are gay stereotypes – it’s not funny.

This morning, after the Court’s ruling, Jim Obergefell, whose fight to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband's death certificate initiated this court case, said this: “It’s my hope that the term ‘gay marriage’ will become a thing of the past.  And our nation will be better off because of it.”

We no longer need that term, if we ever did. We don’t even need the term “marriage equality.” We only need the full recognition that love is love, that people have a right to live their authentic lives, that discrimination based on sexuality is taboo, and that marriage is just marriage.

I, and many others, come from a time when who we were was not acceptable at all. We were not “allowed” to be gay. So we tried our damndest not to be gay, because everybody wants to be recognized and accepted.
We kept our mouths shut when our peers called someone a “fairy” or a “fag.” We dutifully laughed along when someone told a “gay joke.” We did not speak up when even members of our own families made derisive comments about gay people. (My own father once said, “If they can send a man to the moon, surely they can find a cure for homosexuality.”) And sadly, many of us were never able to truly be a full-fledged member of our own families, simply because we had a secret that we knew would just do us in if they knew who we really were.

Honestly, I thank God that I am alive to see what happened in Washington, D.C. this morning. The air seems somehow clearer and more breathable now. The joy that I witnessed on the faces of those on the steps of the Supreme Court came right through the television screen and into my own heart. Civil rights were granted expansion in a way that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago. And as President Obama said in his remarks after the ruling, “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

For me, thunder never sounded quite as harmonious and welcome as it did on June 26, 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Dylan Roof executed a plan to murder black people. He said as much. His aim, evidently, was to do his part to wipe out what he perceived as a threatening part of the American population, black people. Although he managed to murder nine human beings, he failed to achieve his goal. Instead of initiating the race war indicated in his "manifesto," Dylan Roof has ignited the strongest, most activistic conversation about race this country has seen in decades.

For a long time I have maintained my position that racism in America is far worse now than it was during my childhood in the 1960s. Back then discrimination was widespread and rampant, but organized hate was minimal compared to what it is now. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), by the end of 2014 there were 930 known hate groups active in America. It is known that the majority of these groups are based in a white supremacy philosophy and lifestyle. White supremacy is simply the contemporary outgrowth of a time when it was legal in the United States for white Americans to own human beings.

Some perspective: The SPLC reports that in the year 2000 there were 602 known hate groups in America. That’s just 15 years ago. That same year there were 194 known “patriot” groups.
These groups were often armed militia organizations that identified as anti-government. After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, that number rose continually, until by the end of last year there were 1,000 known such groups. Coincidence? I think not. In case I have to remind you, the President is black.

 Here is how racism has morphed into the mainstream since the 1960s. Back then, of course, there was the KKK. And there was the lesser heard of White Citizens Councils, groups that fought desegregation of just about everything, although the primary focus was keeping the nation’s schools segregated. That was then, but as recently as 2007, the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is the modern outgrowth of the old White Citizens Council, had this to say on its own website: “We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called
‘affirmative action' and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."

Today it is difficult for any group to gain national recognition or credibility if it overtly labels itself anti-black. So, instead we have become a nation of liberal vs. conservative as it pertains to all things race related. That’s unfortunate, because there are many fine politically conservative Americans whose ideology is sullied by hate groups that choose to fly under the banner of conservatism.

Little did young Dylan Roof know that each shot he fired in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston served only to ignite a fire under the American people. Rarely do we see the type of mass activism these days that we have seen in opposition to the display of the Confederate flag. And so, to all of the narrow-thinking Facebookers who keep sarcastically posting comments about how taking down the flag won’t solve anything, consider this: No one is trying to convince you that racism will end with the disappearance of the flags. No one is trying to convince you that your Southern heritage doesn’t count; it’s simply that there are parts of the Southern experience that we cannot in good conscience emphasize in contemporary America. The flag is a symbol of a time when a relatively young America made a tragic mistake in judgment, forcing human beings to become property. And most importantly, no one is trying to tell you what to think. If anything, you are being encouraged to think bigger – to be bigger.

Despite public protest and widespread national support for removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol building, it took South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley one full week to publicly call for the flag’s removal. Still, that effort has to wind its way through the General Assembly, which actually adjourned on June 4. Lawmakers are due to return next week to work on budget considerations, and at that time it is expected they will take up the flag issue.

SC Governor Nikki Haley
This is a no-brainer. The flag clearly represents the historic, albeit unfounded supremacy of one race over another in America. The vast majority of Americans do not subscribe to this type of racism. The biggest online retailer in the world, Amazon has stopped selling confederate flag merchandise. EBay and Etsy have followed suit. So has Google Shopping. The biggest retailer, period, WalMart has stopped selling Confederate flags. The Governor of Virginia wants the Confederate flag symbol removed from state license plates. The speaker of the House in Mississippi wants the state flag redesigned to eliminate the Confederate flag symbol.

Why should this issue wait another hour, much less another week in South Carolina? We would all like to believe that Governor Haley does not support the subordination of black citizens in South Carolina, particularly since blacks make up 27.9 per cent of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Why doesn’t Governor Haley simply issue an executive order and have the flag removed? The Governor of Alabama has already done so, and the flag has been taken down from the state capitol building. Perhaps Haley is sending it to the General Assembly because it is not politically advantageous in her own state for her to issue an executive order. But, to paraphrase a certain U.S. president from yesteryear: “Governor Haley….take down that flag.”