Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
For Valentine’s week the LGBT community in Michigan celebrated and protested at various Freedom To Marry events and rallies. But we were struck by how few people showed up at the Freedom To Marry rally in Ferndale, and we are sure that the right to marry legally in Michigan is important to far more people than the ten brave souls who stood in the Woodward median in freezing temperatures to raise awareness for all of us.
Sure it was cold, and people had many other obligations that demanded their time and attention. But we are kidding ourselves if we think that our rights will come to us without effort and sacrifice. It is imperative that each of us take responsibility for showing up when we can and making our voices heard, whether in the streets or in letters to our elected representatives and media outlets.
In this week’s issue of BTL, we report the loss of Barbara Gittings, one of the first pioneers for LGBT rights in America, and Heather MacAllister, a tireless activist in the generation after Gittings. Both women, taken by cancer, committed their lives to public actions that pushed people outside their comfort zones. They challenged the norms with new ideas about civil rights, gender roles, family structures and individual freedoms. We now stand on the shoulders of Gittings and MacAllister, and the many other activists who have protested for our rights.
Gittings marched in the first gay rights picket lines in the mid-’60s at the White House and the Pentagon and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “It was risky and we were scared. Our protests seemed outlandish even to most gay people,” she said. Because she and others raised these issues when it was risky to do so, today we enjoy many rights and freedoms, such as non-discrimination policies that include LGBT people, domestic partner benefits, and an open and accepting social environment that Gittings’ generation could only dream about.
It is our time now to demand outlandish rights; the right to create a family, to choose our life partners, and the right to work without fear of being fired just because we are LGBT. Demanding the right to marry may be controversial for some LGBT people, but we believe that if society can categorize our relationships as unworthy of marriage, then we will never be fully accepted. And that is worth fighting for.
So next time you are asked to participate in a Freedom to Marry event, make the effort to get there, even if you never intend to marry. Demanding the right to marry is out of today’s “norm” and it’s brave, and it makes people uncomfortable. These are exactly the kinds of reactions that Gittings and MacAllister evoked, and thereby created the changes we enjoy today.
Hopefully the next generation of activists will look back on this time and think it was no big deal to demand marriage rights, because it is a given right for them. It will then be up to them to stand on our shoulders to protect and defend the human rights that are reflected in the issues of their days.