By Sean Kosofsky
In 1776 our Founding Fathers committed an act of treason by declaring the colonies independent of monarchical rule. This was an act of bravery and heroism that we can draw parallels to today regarding GLBT rights.
The early framers of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were people who drew their political philosophies from the Enlightenment era. They believed strongly in a separation of church and state and did not want to re-create a theocratic governing structure in the new nation. This early wisdom and vision rings true today as our nation is going through one of the most divisive and costly battles over the future of our culture. Do we live in a country that respects individual liberties or do we force a narrow course that only allows people to speak one language, worship one way, and only marry in one way?
At the end of April, Equality Forum called on GLBT activists and leaders around the country to join them in their hometown of Philadelphia. They produced a week of activities including workshops, panel discussions, parties, opportunities to network and a street festival. The most important thing for me, however, was simply being in Philadelphia, where so many of our nation’s democratic principles are rooted.
I cannot read the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution without feeling overwhelmed at the brilliant model that was set up for our infant nation. Being in Philadelphia helped me as a gay activist return to the core principles of democracy and thoughtful freedom of expression. The fact that I can even write this column today, is due, in part, to the wisdom of the framers. Many of the rights we seek for the GLBT community do not need radical transformation of the U.S. political system to achieve.
Our nation was founded on principles that, if applied correctly, would grant GLBT people their freedom. One could argue that the right to be gay, or to get married, or be in a gay relationship or to transition from one sex to another, is solidly rooted in the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of expression. We would not be denied the 1,138 benefits, rights and responsibilities that are granted to other Americans who choose a life in the narrow model of monogamous heterosexual marriage.
Liberation and liberty mean something different in 2005 than they did in 1776. Our pursuit for the “greatest good for the greatest many” means an ever expanding list of rights and freedoms. The freedom to marry has become a paramount issue for the GLBT community. A year ago many GLBT people said they weren’t interested in getting married. And now, because people are telling us we can’t get married, there is a growing chorus of voices demanding marriage equality.
The right wing in this country is starting to look more and more like the oppressive regime pilgrims tried escaping 400 years ago by coming to the “new world.” They want to take us back in time. They want an America where everyone lives just like them. They are trying to dismantle the Constitution and replace it with one narrow version of the Bible.
If this (still very new) country wants to survive intact the way the framers wanted it to, we must fight and fight hard to fulfill their plan. Slowly but surely GLBT people will win marriage equality. As we travel on that journey, let us remember our founding fathers as men who were committed to personal liberty. That includes, telling the state and the church to stop meddling with people’s personal relationships.