Gay-Marriage Victory

July 5, 2011

I am proud that my state government has at last, on June 25, 2011, passed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, and that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo—who personally lobbied for its passage, as I voted for him to do—promptly signed it into law.

At issue is one of the most pressing civil rights challenges in America today: the ability of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to enjoy the full rights accorded heterosexuals. It is an issue that is simple and clear in the light of reason, and secular humanists are right to adopt it as their cause too.

I speak as someone who was on the battlements in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. (I helped create a committee on human rights at the University of Kentucky, which succeeded in desegregating campus housing; marched with Dr. King at the state capital; and worked as a community organizer in Georgia, including activist work to challenge outrageously discriminatory voter registration practices in Carroll County and to help end the Klan’s stranglehold on Forsythe County where blacks were completely excluded, not even being allowed to spend the night there.)

And so it is with particular sadness that I note this irony: that some African-American church leaders joined fellow religious fundamentalists, catholic dogmatists, and rank-and-file homophobes in attempting to derail this freedom train that is gathering steam and heading into history. Those who gain their rights must not deny legitimate rights to others.

In time, the forces of bigotry, intolerance, and insensitivity must give way to the moral imperative of equal rights and equal treatment under the law. The New York state legislation continues this promising beginning. However, the issue must now be raised to the federal level so that such rights are extended to those of every state.