BY REV. ROLAND STRINGFELLOW
June 26, 2015 – a day history was made. Crowds gather around their television sets waiting for the announcement from the High Court. A collective breath was held. Couples were holding hands in anticipation. Celebrations or protests were in the works depending upon the outcome. Then the decision was announced – marriage was now recognized in all 50 states for same-gender couples! Human dignity obtained through legal standing, removing the second-class citizen status for many lesbian and gay couples.
“Marriage in all 50 states? Really? In our lifetime?”
Decision Day Detroit! Decision Day Ann Arbor! Decision Day Lansing! Decision Day Grand Rapids! Throughout our state, the rallies and celebrations began that afternoon into the night. This Supreme Court decision was particularly important for those of us living in Michigan as there existed three tiers of marriage up to that day – marriage for heterosexual couples, the marriages of the 300+ same gender couples and the ban placed upon same gender couples wanted to get married. All of that was now erased.
Many of us remember vividly that day in June when we first heard the news. Here we are two years later and where do we find ourselves? Within our current political climate, we could use some good feelings of celebration and victory.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with all of the negative news out of Washington D.C. with the assaults upon our climate, voting rights and gerrymandering, health care bills from Congress that make us sick and course “Russiagate.” On the national stage there continues to be discrimination and violence aimed at members of the Transgender, Arab-American, Latino/a communities. And people still want to debate “Black Lives Matter” vs “All Lives Matter.”
Yet, when a Minneapolis police officer is acquitted after a Facebook live recording of him shooting a black man in front of his family is broadcasted, many of us wonder “where is the justice?”
Marriage equality was a “no-brainer” for progressive people because it provided lesbian and gay couples and their families the dignity they deserve. Yet, for those who believe in equality, we cannot be lulled into thinking that “we have arrived” when the issues of immigration, the restriction of heath care for women, poverty and hate crimes still impact the daily existence of a multitude of people. As long there are laws on the books diminish the humanity of any person, then there is still a need for champions for equality who recognize the importance for intersectional work.
There are many wonderful, hardworking individuals who expended their energy and placed their hearts on the line as they worked to make marriage equality a reality. If our goal is to improve the lives of LGBTIQ people, then we must recognize that racism, sexism and classism are all LGBTIQ issues.
To begin to repair the divisions that exist in our society as we work for equity, we must ask ourselves, “What divisions continue to exist within our movement for equality?”
“We would love to have a person of color on our board, but we don’t know any qualified persons?”
“We would love to have a Trans person to help us with messaging, but would they help us free of charge?”
“We would like to include Muslims in our community dialogue, but are there any who would be open to LGBTIQ issues?”
The answer is “Yes”. Many are waiting to be included and to contribute to the movement for equality. If we sincerely value others (especially those who are different from us), then inviting diverse voices to the decision making table will not be so difficult. Also, those wanting to be invited to the table must take the responsibility of stepping up and speaking out in order to be known. If we, as LGBTQI people want acceptance from the communities we live in, then we must first begin to model that acceptance and look for ways of being inclusive within our own movements.
I am an optimist and feel that the ways for us to experience even more celebrations and victories is to be more intersectional in our organizing. We know that working towards
greater equality is never easy or popular. Some have paid with their very lives to see people with differences holding hands in unity. May we, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning, be the very ones who model for our community and world what it looks like to work in solidarity with those of different issues.