Note: Another pre-DADT Repeal post.
Nearly half a century has passed since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and our nation has made great progress toward equality since then. It would be easy to think that, in the 21st Century, discrimination is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. According to a recent FBI report, more than 6,600 hate crimes were reported in the United States in 2009, 90% of which were related to race, religion, or sexual orientation. Hate crimes here in Colorado have increased by 25% since 2008.
Sarah Silverman: They Learned it From You
The epidemic of suicides among gay teens as a result of bullying is all the harrowing proof one needs that hate is still alive and well in today’s society. But many believe that bullying in schools isn’t the only thing to blame for the pressure that drove nearly half a dozen teens to take their own lives this fall. Considering the recent failure of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, the verbal abuse toward LGBT communities by religious groups and public officials, and the failure by those in power to protect the citizens of this country from discrimination, it’s easy to see where those bullies may have learned to hate homosexuals.
In Iowa, the National Organization for Marriage funneled nearly one million dollars into a campaign to oust threejustices up for a retention vote, because they were part of the unanimous landmark Varnum v. Brien decision which legalized gay marriage in the state. In North Carolina, members of the Westboro Baptist church protested at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, holding signs that said things like “God Hates Fags,” and “Thank God for Breast Cancer.”
In Washington, a defense bill that would end the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was killed by Republicans before it even made it to the floor. This is the second time Senate Republicans have blocked the bill, despite an extensive Pentagon study which showed that an end to the policy would not harm the military, a call from the President and the military’s joint chiefs of staff to repeal it, and the fact that 67% of Americans support the repeal.
In addition, a recent study by Yale University showed that gay and lesbian youth are more frequently and more harshly punished in school and legal systems than their straight counterparts. What are we telling our young people when we allow our own children, educators, public defenders, and elected officials to send hateful messages of discrimination and unequal treatment on a regular basis? We cannot continue treating our LGBT neighbors as second-class citizens. This type of behavior is not only immoral and unconstitutional, but it is also putting all of our youth in grave danger by teaching them that it is okay to hate or mistreat those who are different from them.
It’s a terrifying travesty of justice that such inequality and ill-treatment of American citizens is allowed to continue in the 21st Century. But it isn’t all bad news: there is hope. NOM chose the wrong battle, and though they took away those justices’ jobs, gay marriage is still legal in the state of Iowa. At the Edwards funeral, as with most Westboro protests, the picketers were overwhelmingly outnumbered by counter-protesters with messages of hope and love. The American attitude toward LGBT issues is rapidly shifting toward acceptance and understanding. It’s up to us to continue this positive change.
After all we’ve been through to get to the 21st Century as a fair and civilized society, it should be a given that all men (and women) truly are created equal, and that there is no place in our educational or legal systems for this kind of hatred and discrimination. I call on each of you to remember people like Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, and other gay teens who may feel so afraid and alone that they’ve considered taking their own lives. I encourage you to stand with gay soldiers and thank them for their service by contacting public officials to show support for a DADT repeal. There are things that you can do to ensure that gay teens and adults alike find help, support, and love this holiday season.
Support equality-based organizations in your community, and help educate others on these types of issues. Tell your school board how important it is to make our schools safe for all of our children. Call your Senators and Congressmen, and ask that those who risk their lives for our safety be allowed to serve openly. Share your understanding with fellow community members. Most importantly, let the children of the world know that they are the future; that they are loved and supported no matter who they are; and that there is hope for a safer, better world for them, if they only stick around long enough to find it.