Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Why the Supreme Court Said "No to Blacks, Yes to Gays"

Why the Supreme Court Said "No to Blacks, Yes to Gays"

by Rabbi Michael Lerner
June 26, 2013

On Tuesday the Supreme Court overturned a central part of the Voting Rights Act that had been one of the main accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement for African Americans. Southern states, consistent with the racist legacy of slavery which has shaped their politics for the past 150 years at least, are now rushing to put in place new rules to make it more difficult for African Americans to vote.

Then on Wednesday the Supreme Court declared the “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional, thereby opening the door to gay marriage and sustaining a lower court decision that had overturned the California state proposition that had tried to prevent those marriages.

Why is it “no to Blacks and Yes to gays?”

Don’t expect a constitutional argument here. As the Supreme Court minority on Voting Rights made clear, the argument for dismantling the victories of the Civil Rights era are pathetically inadequate. And, one might add, hypocritical given that those who overturned that Congressional Act often proclaim their opposition to an “activist judiciary” that interferes with legislative decisions.

The answer is purely political.

For the past twenty years with deep commitment, and for ten years with growing intensity, the gay and lesbian communities have relentlessly pushed forward their convincing arguments that it is a morally indefensible double standard to allow heterosexuals to marry and to deny that same legal right to homosexuals. That such a double standard has been part of the legacy of the human race for thousands of years made no difference. The key point is that in a society which, largely due to the successes of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, has embraced the notion of equal rights with self-congratulatory enthusiasm, this unequal treatment of gays and lesbians could be seen as inconsistent and hurtful.

I was one of the many clergy people who for the past decades performed marriage ceremonies for gays and lesbians in defiance of this double standard, even though the marriages only had religious but not state-sanctioned validity. And there were millions of other Americans who, in small ways and large, poked fun at the homophobia, ridiculed the religious provisions that seemed to embrace this double standard, and celebrated as cultural stars in entertainment and sports, children of prominent elected officials, academics, professionals and other symbols of cultural authority came out of the closet and revealed themselves as homosexuals. Often their personal stories were deeply moving, and over a very short period of time, a majority of Americans came to sympathize and then finally to support homosexual rights and to detest those who would oppress gays and lesbians.

There was no comparable mobilization in the African American community in the past twenty years. Black professionals and business people, academics and writers, music and television stars, sports and cultural figures, were happy to embrace the benefits of affirmative action and the residue of Civil Rights consciousness. But only a very small percentage of that community were willing to face the reality that racism toward Blacks was still being played out on a daily basis in the effects of economic inequality, unequal access to health care and jobs and healthy food and crime-free communities and well-financed primary and middle and high schools not just in the South but throughout these United States.

White supporters of civil rights too often believed that it was victories in the courts rather than the kind of mobilizations in the streets pioneered by MLKjr. and the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s that would sustain and make equality and fairness prevail. One sad consequence of electing a Black president was our collective fantasy that he was a civil rights leader, which increased our collective denial about the persistence of racism. Even today many liberals and most Blacks give Obama strong support because he is our first Black president, even though his policies have been far more supportive of the needs of the top 1% of income earners, the big banks and investment companies and Wall Street than of the American poor, who are disproportionately Black. I've witnessed that same kind of identity politics lead American Jews to give blind support to Israeli policies that we would never support anywhere else, and to ignore the ways that those policies actually are detrimental both to Israel's security and to Jews around the world.

While the Supreme Court decision reminds us that racism against Blacks remains far more deeply implanted in America’s economic and political institutions, and in the consciousness of many Americans, than the horrendous homophobia that may now be somewhat receding, it is also a testimony to those in the gay world who refused to be “realistic” when told that gay marriage was unthinkable. We need that same kind of unrealistic thinking to revive the necessary struggle against American racism.

*************

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine (www.tikkun.org), chair of the interfaith and secular-humaninst-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, most recently Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news