The future I envision, whether on this planet or elsewhere, is a reality where everyone,
including animals, can live their life true to who and what they are. Therefore, the whole "rights activism" scene has been a major part of
my life for decades. Ultimately, in a spiritually advanced society, fighting for rights is nonsense. They are, or should be, part of our existence. But here
on this prison planet, we still struggle to be free of the imaginary chains in which we are bound.
This book, published in 2010, contains eighteen speeches by both men and women from various walks of life. It ranges from 1892 to 2009, still before the U.S. passed the law guaranteeing same-sex marriages legal rights. Finally. There are three speeches by Germans, one Canadian, one Australian, and the rest American. I will review each one. I took pages and pages of notes, and read this book slowly.
I must say, this is an excellent collection of works filled with so many compelling reasons for ALL people to support the basic rights of humanity, not just LGBTQ people, simply because we, as humans, are all born with the right to live as we were born. I mean, if you're black, you're black; if you're gay, you're gay. These Christians who consider homosexuality to be sinful are ALSO condemning their own GOD for creating people that way. (Similar points are brought up in some of the speeches.) In addition, this is a wonderful history book, where we can trace the progress of the Gay Rights Movement (along with other "rights" movements). It does not matter whether you are gay or straight, we should all be well informed of the history of our country and the world. And last of all, we must be aware, especially as the world is now, that sooner or later we will all be persecuted. If we allow injustice to be practiced in any aspect of our civilization, it multiplies and thrives. For anyone who is not an idiot, we clearly see that happening now with the Trump administration. If we lose the fight of justice for one, we eventually lose justice for all.
Robert G. Ingersoll: Address at the Funeral of Walt Whitman; Camden, NJ, March 30, 1892
I know next to nothing about Walt Whitman. I must certainly change that since he was such a renowned author/poet. I have just downloaded "Leaves of Grass" from Project Gutenberg. It is still debatable as to his sexual orientation, modern conclusions being that he was probably bisexual. Back then, it was deadly for people to "come out." This speech mentions nothing of the sort, but is instead a beautiful tribute to a man who must have been the epitome of open-mindedness and inclusiveness, embracing life and death to its fullest.
August Bebel: Address at the Reichstag; Berlin, Germany, January 13, 1898
There is nothing ambiguous about this one. The paragraph preceding the speech notes that he was an outspoken member of the German parliament and one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party. He argues in favor of repealing Paragraph 175 of the German penal code which criminalizes homosexuality. It is believed to be the first political speech in favor of homosexual freedom.
His argument is quite a bit about hypocrisy. He argues that since the laws are unenforceable, why have them at all. He states that the police are aware of the "offenders," but do not turn them in; rather they add them to the list. And his main point it, that the list is very long:
The number of these persons if so great and reaches so far into all levels of society, that if the police here scrupulously carried out their duty, the Prussian State would immediately be compelled to build two new penitentiaries just to take care of those offenses against Paragraph 175 that are committed in Berlin alone.
Ha! He also points out that female "offenses" were not included in the law, which
wasn't fair. But here is the best sentence: "But gentlemen, I'll tell you this: if in this area the Berlin police did their duty all the way—I
want to say a word about this—then there would be a scandal such as the world
have never known, a scandal compared with which the Panama scandal, the Dreyfus scandal, the Lützow-Ledert and the Tausch-Normann scandals are pure
Well, I am not familiar with these other scandals, but I get his message. It seems Berlin was the place to be if you were a gay man in the late 1890s! An excellent speech that, unfortunately did not succeed in having the law changed, but certainly must have made an impact.
Dr. Anna Rueling: What interest does the women's movement have in solving the homosexual
problem?; Berlin, Germany, October 8. 1904
This address by a prominent physician, also considered to be the first lesbian activist was presented at the Prinz Albrecht Hotel. She argues that the struggle for women's rights are the same as the struggle for homosexual freedom. I can understand that, but I cannot fully grasp what it was to be a woman in 1904, in Germany or the U.S.. I found much of her speech annoying to insulting to women in general, feeling so far removed from the era in which she lived. To me the part of her message that stood out so clearly was her stereotyping of men, women, and homosexual men and women, but especially her view of women.
I am sure what she said was the way women were viewed in that day. A woman was expected to marry and have children, be a housewife and tend to domestic affairs, and a spinster carried a certain social stigma. That was certainly true, but absolutely is not now, so much of what she says does not apply. Of course, the women's movement sought to break the barrier for women, all women, to be free to pursue their lives as they pleased. But she seems to make an assumption that all "feminine" women naturally would want to be mothers, and the "masculine" women would be more independent and play roles of leadership. So, I am going to dispute all her stereotypes, which really do not even remotely hold true here in 2020. I will use myself as an example. As a straight woman, I was a true "girly-girl" as a kid. I loved my dolls and paper dolls and playing dress-up and helping bake cookies. But as a "daddy's girl" I loved tractors and mechanics and became a pro at rebuilding carburetors. Does that make me less feminine? All through college, I was the one walking across campus wearing heels and dresses and makeup. A couple years ago I was acquainted with a young woman who was training in welding. Was it because she was a lesbian? Not at all. Her boyfriend was a welder, and it is a good paying job, and I suppose they planned to have a business together which may or may not have been wise. I know twin brothers who are nurses and they are certainly not gay. And I have a good friend who is gay, who is an English teacher, a profession held by millions of men, gay and straight. But he is also a body-builder, which some may consider a "masculine" trait. At one time one's profession was connected with their gender, but that time has long passed.
I get what Dr. Rueling was saying, and if she were alive today, I am sure she would be speaking for the rights of all women to pursue the field which interests them, and for all LGBTQ people to have the exact same rights as those who are straight.
We must always be extremely careful to never stereotype any person or group of people because it can be damaging and deadly, as we are finding out now as the racist-bigot who holds the office of president currently has made it so. Just as we should all become color blind, so we too must become gender blind. People are people, and all must have the rights and opportunities to pursue life as they are called to do.
Kurt Hiller: Appeal to the Second International Congress for Sexual Reform on Behalf of an
Oppressed Human Variety; Copenhagen, Denmark, 1928
Hiller could not afford to travel to Denmark to deliver this speech, so it was read by Magnus Hirschfield. The first thing I want to mention is that not only did August Bebel's speech above still not move the German parliament to abolish the law punishing homosexual acts, but they carried a maximum prison sentence of ten years in the penitentiary!
At the beginning of the speech, Hiller contradicts the opinion of some people that homosexuality is "contrary to nature." He states, beautifully that "A phenomenon of nature, that is incomprehensible or discomfiting to the majority, does not cease on that account to be a phenomenon of nature."
Same-sex love is not a mockery of nature, but rather nature at play; and anyone who maintains the contrary—that love, as everyone knows, is intended to serve the propagation of the species, that homosexual potency is squandered on goals with which Nature in all her largesse wastes semen, millions and billions times over.
I want to add my own two cents here. If you want to know the "real nature" of
the vagina please see the hysterical play, The Vagina Monologues. I saw it twice, once with a professional troupe at E.J. Thomas in Akron, and much
later, in Newcastle, PA, when I was Arts and Entertainment writer for the Youngstown
Vindicator. My other two cents is the fact that animals have been observed to be gay. Here is one I have been saving for just the right place to post it.
And it is in Berlin!!
A gay penguin couple adopted an egg in a Berlin zoo
I also want to point out that Hiller listed all the countries that, at that time, had already repealed laws that punished homosexual acts, including France, the Latin countries, Islamic countries, China and Japan and the Soviet Union.
Franklin Kameny: Civil Liberties: A Progress Report; NYC, 1964
We jump ahead now to the 60s, when all kinds of "rights" burst onto the scene. Civil Rights, Gay Rights, Animal Rights, Women's Lib, Sexual Liberation. This speech, given to the Mattachine Society at Freedom House, is the first of these speeches that is truly one of organized activism within a large group of people. The Mattachine Society was a gay activist group, first formed in California, then branched out to different areas. Kameny was a member of the one in Washington, D.C.. The Daughters of Bilitis was the organization devoted to Lesbian rights. This is one of the longest speeches in the book and one of the most interesting. I took ample notes, and will try to highlight some of the most important points. First he states that he does not support controversy or neutrality on questions concerning gay rights. He also says that homophile organizations are branching into three directions: social service, information and education, and civil liberties. Because his group is in Washington D.C., they are focusing mostly on civil liberties. He also gives reasons why, without a focus on civil liberties, the other two areas have little chance to succeed on their own. In other words, political action and the establishment of laws is the only way to establish any human rights. He says, "The prejudiced mind, and that is what we are fighting, is not penetrated by information and is not educable." He further states " that prejudiced opinions, attitudes, and beliefs, usually change only when people are forced to change." He makes it clear that official action precedes public sentiment, and that public sentiment must accommodate the new situation, an excellent point.
This is also the first speech that compares the "Homophile" movement (the word "Gay" was not a term yet), with other minority groups, such as Blacks and Jews. There is also the beginnings of collaboration with the ACLU. Later speeches also indicate further collaboration with organizations such as the NAACP. He spends quite a bit of time defining a "minority," and I found this very interesting. He points out that, if a white, heterosexual Anglo-Saxon Protestant commits a crime, the blame goes on that person alone, but if a black or gay person commits a crime, the whole group is blamed. We still see that happening, and even more now with the current racist bigot in the White House.
He then goes on to discuss the attitude that homosexuality is a sickness. God, we are still dealing with that a bit, aren't we? He says, "Accordingly, I take the position unequivocally that, until and unless valid, positive evidence shows otherwise, homosexuality, per se, is neither a sickness, a defect, a disturbance, a neurosis, a psychosis, nor a malfunction of any sort."
The next point I want to make concerns Kameny's comments about gays serving in the military or areas of Federal Civil Service, which, unfortunately, even here in 2020, is an issue which still persists. Eligible men were still on this date subject to be drafted, and he urges all people, gay and straight, to refuse to answer the question asked during the physical exam as to whether they have ever had any homosexual tendencies. He states, in much more polite terms, that it is none of the government's business, and I certainly agree.
The other areas he covers are job discrimination. Even not too many years ago, when my friend got his first teaching job, he was afraid to let people know he was gay. That was shortly before the same-sex marriage law was passed, I believe, and quite a bit has changed. My friend is now married, and he and his husband have just recently adopted a baby boy. He was also able to take maternity leave, so those are BIG improvements.
Kameny also speaks about gays and blackmail, and government brainwashing. Well, we are ALL being attempted to be brainwashed at this point. And the last major point he makes is about gays and religious institutions, another area which is changing probably way too slowly, but depending on the institution, many churches welcome all people, no matter who or what they are. This would include the Unitarian Church, for example, and even back in Kameny's time, they spoke at the Temple Sinai, a reformed Jewish congregation, and also had favorable responses from the Methodists. Back in the mid-1980s when I lived in Cincinnati, I was the associate organist of St. Xavier, a huge, old Jesuit church downtown. They were a radical bunch! I became friends with the resident nun, Sister Caroline, who frequently participated in marches, such as Gay Rights, and even Abortion Rights!
In all, this was one of my favorite speeches in the book—extremely thorough and organized!
Jack Nichols: Why I Joined the Movement; Bucknell University, PA, 1967
And here is another one, also from the 60s, and who was a founding member of the Mattachine Societies of Washington, D.C.. In this short speech, he tells why the Homophile Movement is so important.
There is something to be said for casting aside one's fears and confronting the forces of darkness and despair with a healthy vigor. People who work in our movement can't help but benefit from putting their focus on human freedom and dignity.
Along with providing support, encouraging self-esteem and confidence, it also enables "the
joy of collaborating with my fellows on projects bringing comfort and hope, aid and solace to millions who have never heard of this movement or who are unable
to align themselves although they may hope every day for its success."
In a broader sense, it aims towards "the rights of the individual, for the sanctity of privacy in an area—sexual behavior—which is certainly the most personal of concerns."
In a sense, the Homophile Movement is thus protecting not only homosexuals but [also] all people resenting the intrusion of government, employers, and others who pry into their private lives seeking excuses for condemnation and discrimination.
He also supplies a bit of interesting history. In reading novels, I have often heard the term "faggots" used to mean sticks or firewood. But I have also heard it used as an offensive term referring to gays. There is a connection, and it goes back centuries when gays were burned at the stake and faggots were thrown at their feet. That is the origin of the derogatory term.
Sally Gearhart: The Lesbian and God-the-Father, or, All the Church Needs Is a Good Lay . . . On
Its Side; Berkeley, CA, February 1972
This speech was given at the Pacific School of Religion at Berkeley. Now, if you note the date, 1972, and you, like me were around back then, you will know that the whole Women's Lib and Sexual Liberation movements were in full swing. So in this speech, Gearhart focuses on women and the church, and sort of combines both straight and lesbian women in their common anger and resentment towards the religious institutions, again not all of them, but too many. She says:
First, I cannot separate the lesbian from the woman. This is not only because my oppression has been more as a woman than as a lesbian (though that of course is true), but also because to me being a lesbian is what really being a woman means. I like to think that the way politically conscious lesbians "are" in the world today is the way all women were before the tyranny of the patriarchy. To be a lesbian is to be identified not by men or by a society made by men but by me, by a woman.
I understand what she is saying—almost an expanded definition of lesbianism. She says "I would like to call any woman-identified woman a lesbian, and if she's really woman-identified, she'll feel good about being called a lesbian, whether or not she's had any sexual relationships with another woman."
The woman-identified women who are being reborn every day are those who are shaking off the chains forged by thousands of years of ecclesiastical propaganda. Shaking off their definition as male property, as male's helpmate, as the pure and empedestaled virtue-vessels that need chivalrous male protection.
And so on. So what she is speaking of are the strides we as women have made since the
1970s, and that would certainly include me, who is about as independent as it gets. I have been this way a long, long time, and have to look WAY back to
remember when it was different.
Much of this speech is also about the dissolution of the church, and it will happen and it is happening. She says, "I look forward with great anticipation to the death of the church. The sooner it dies, the sooner we can go about the business of living the gospel."
She also states clearly that she is not looking for women to replace men in the church, she is looking for the whole concept of "church" to be dissolved. She says, "The structure of the church (God over man, man over woman, father over family, clergy over laity, power over powerlessness) is vertical hierarchical. The church's very identity depends on that hierarchy."
She goes on to state, "Women who are really getting it together don't want to be national presidents or bishops or pope. They don't want presidents, bishops, popes, and the like to exist at all, for the very definition of their office puts them above some and below others."
This is a very good speech, of which I, as an independent straight woman, could greatly relate.
Harvey Milk: The Hope Speech; San Francisco, 1978
Harvey is the man pictured on the cover of this book. I will quote the entire explanatory paragraph that precedes the speech.
Harvey Milk [1930-1978] was the first openly gay man to hold public office in California when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk delivered the following speech, which would only later come to be known as "The Hope Speech," at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Harvey Milk was assassinated by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White on November 27, 1978, just five months after giving this speech.
When I read that, I just sat there and stared. People's hatred, ignorance, and prejudice
knows no bounds. To deprive someone of their life simply because they are different than you . . . I cannot comprehend such a mindset.
Of all the speeches in this book, Milk's was the one that begins with humor! Here is one of the jokes:
About six months ago, Anita Bryant in her speaking to God said that the drought in California was because of the gay people. On November 9, the day I got elected, it started to rain. On the day I got sworn in, we walked to City Hall and it was kinda nice, and as soon as I said the word "I do," it started to rain again. It's been raining since then and the people of San Francisco figure the only way to stop it is to do a recall petition.
In the more serious part of the speech, he urges gays to elect more people to public office. He says:
You see, there is a major difference—and it remains a vital difference—between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide. We've been tarred and we've been brushed with the picture of pornography. In Dade County, we were accused of child molestation. It's not enough anymore just to have friends represent us. No matter how good that friend may be.
He makes the point that whether it be Blacks or Asians or Latinos, each must put their own
kind in public positions, and his speech mostly concerns each minority putting their members in office.
I also want to point out that as these speeches progress through the years, the language changes greatly. Homosexual is rarely used at this point. As we move on to the next speech, more names, terms and incidents are familiar to me.
Harry Hay: Unity and More in '84; Boston, MA, 1984
Hay was one of the founders of the Mattachine Society. He was in his 70s when he delivered this speech at the Boston Gay Pride Rally. He tells a little of its history, and how a new Minority was created.
He goes on to speak of Stonewall, the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, which "ignited the powder trains we radicals had been laying in many parts of the country. The combined explosions shattered the door-locks of the Hetero Society's closets and attics to reveal that we Gay and Lesbian folk were everywhere. Gay lifestyles and Gay-positive ways of being ourselves suddenly became visible all over the place."
Other areas covered in his speech include Jerry Falwell and other Homophobic people, the New Right, which was like the Christian Right, I believe, and the Moral Majority, and Ronald Reagan, whose rise in popularity was certainly a dark period in this country. He pointed out that the Moral Majority, which supposedly defended the authority of the American Family demanded, through the Family Protection Act, Federal law changes that would cut off all federal funds from any state or local agency who maintained shelters or provided assistance for battered women!
Yep, these radical Christian groups have done more damage than they get credit for. They continue to do damage even now.
Sue Hyde: We Gather in Dubuque; Dubuque, Iowa, April 30, 1988
At the time of this speech Sue Hyde was the director of the annual Creating Change Conference on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This speech was given at the Second Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride March in Dubuque.
She first speaks of growing up in a little town in Illinois, where only white people lived. She had never seen black people except on the annual trip to St. Louis. She later learned that through the 1930s and 1940s, her town had signs posted at the city limits that read, "Nigger, don't let the sun set on you here."
She also remembers the previous year's Pride March in Dubuque, where marchers were pelted with eggs and confronted by 300 angry counter-demonstrators, as the police stood by and watched. The march was cut short, but she said they did not agonize, they organized. They "fueled a movement of gays and lesbians to travel across the state, across the Midwest, and even across the country to stand with them today."
She ends her speech with, "We won't give up. We won't shut up. We won't go away. And we will change this world."
Urvashi Vaid: Speech at the March on Washington; Washington D.C., April 25, 1993
Urvashi is an American attorney, writer and political activist of Indian descent. At the time this speech was given, she served as executive director of the Arcus Foundation, dedicated to human rights and conservation throughout the world
She begins by saying, "We have come to speak the truth of our lives and silence the liars. We have come to challenge the cowardly Congress to end its paralysis and exercise moral leadership.
That could have been written today . . . .
Much of her speech concerns the Far Right, as mentioned in the speech above. She says:
The supremacists who lead the anti-gay crusade are wrong morally. They are wrong because justice is moral, and prejudice is evil; because truth is moral and the lie of the closet is the real sin; because the claim of morality is a subtle sort of subterfuge, a stratagem which hides the real aim which is much more secular.
Our opponents believe in monotheism. One way—theirs. One God—theirs. One law—the Old Testament. One nation supreme—the Christian right one.
When the movements began, the speakers were preaching to the choir—gays speaking to gays. But as we move along through the century, now the speeches implore straight supporters of Gay Rights—as it should be, of course. She says, "I challenge everyone of you, straight or gay, who can hear my voice, to join the national gay and lesbian movement." Other minority groups also joined the march, including the NAACP and feminist leaders. The same weekend of this march also celebrated the opening of the Holocaust Museum. She says, "When all of us who believe in freedom and diversity see this gathering, we see beauty and power."
Jim Kepner: Why Can't We All Get Together, and What Do We Have in Common? April 28, 1997
Kepner was a journalist, historian and gay rights activist who also wrote for One Magazine, the first pro-gay publication. He also did a lot of archival work concerning the gays. This speech was given about seven months before his death on November 15, 1997, at age 74.
This was the longest speech in the book, and unlike most of the others, this one gives a really interesting history of the Gay Rights Movement, beginning in Germany, 1896. He spoke of the magazine, and his own "coming out." He also spoke of many of the other speakers included in this book, filling in some blanks. At the beginning of the book, I was confused as to why the Germans referred to gays as Urnings or Uranians. Kepner explains that Uranus was the god of same-sex lovers. I did not know that!!
He also adds more about Harvey Milk. Before he was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was a stockbroker turned hippie. On the page of his speech it is mentioned that he was assassinated by a former Supervisor, but it is here in Kepner's speech that I learned the mayor of San Francisco, a pro-Gay supporter, George Moscone, was also gunned down by Dan White, actually right before he killed Milk. There is a huge Wikipedia article about Harvey Milk, and this horrible event in San Francisco, chillingly, was connected to the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana, where the cult had relocated from San Francisco.
Anyways, back to Kepner. One of the main themes, woven into the historical aspect, was the fact that even within the LGBT community, there was not only a lack of unity, but difficulty in defining their goals. Many gays and lesbians simply wanted equal rights. The right to work without the threat of being fired because of sexual orientation, the right to do everything that a straight person would do, such as receive an education at the school of their choice, worship in the church or temple of choice, serve in the military or government, and ultimately, marry and have a family. That, here in 2020 is pretty much the path Gay Rights have followed. But at the time, there were many Gays who did not see themselves "the same as heterosexuals except in bed." Harry Hay, whom Kepner also discusses, was certainly one of that type. The next speaker was too.
Eric Rofes: The Emerging Sex Panic Targeting Gay Men; San Diego, November 16, 1997
As mentioned above, members of the LGBTQ community often were in disagreement as to what exactly they were fighting for. Rofes seems to be more supportive of a purely gay lifestyle as opposed to integrating a gay lifestyle with heterosexuals. He speaks about gay bars, sex clubs, sex areas in parks, and bathhouses. Not being a member of the LGBTQ community, I had to look some of this stuff up. I knew gay bars were still around, but was not sure about the others. He also talks quite a bit about AIDS and how the Gay community was stigmatized for it. But in fact, according to Wikipedia, "the dominant mode of spread worldwide for HIV remains heterosexual transmission." I did not know that. But I also remember that when the AIDS epidemic really exploded, there began to be more emphasis on restricting promiscuity, and of course using condoms. And that goes for both gays and straights. It stands to reason that people who regularly go to bars for sex with someone whom they just met and know nothing about, there would be a greater chance of spreading disease. Also according to Wikipedia, now the majority of gay relationships are monogamous. "Gay actor Neil Patrick Harris has remarked, "I'm a big proponent of monogamous relationships regardless of sexuality, and I'm proud of how the nation is steering toward that." But at the time this speech was written, that was less true. Here is another Wikipedia article on Gay Villages, which also includes gay bars and bathhouses.
Rofes also speaks about the "moral panic" of the McCarthy period, and the "sex panic" that flared up as a result of the AIDS epidemic.
Elizabeth Toledo: Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: The GLBT Movement at a
Crossroads; Washington, D.C., April 25, 2000
Toledo, since the early 1990s was a national leader for feminist causes, serving as Vice President of Action for the National Organization of Women, the Vice President of Communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This speech was given to the National Press Club.
It consists of bills, passed and failed, supporting GLBT equality. She also goes through specific states which have moved forward in areas, such as same-sex unions, job discrimination, and even hate crimes laws that include gays and lesbians. Of course now, same-sex marriage rights is a federal law, but this speech gives us a good historical background on how those rights were won. I was surprised on how progressive some southern states were, specifically Georgia and Alabama, on working towards protecting gays and lesbians. I say that because many southern states consist of more conservative Christians who certainly were NOT progressive about protecting GLBT people.
Elizabeth Birch: First Convention Speech by a Gay Organization's Leader: Democratic
National Convention, August 15, 2000
Elizabeth Birch is an attorney and gay rights activist known for her work as the Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign. This speech is, well, really a political speech in favor of "the next President of the United States, Al Gore." Yeah. If only. Not that I support him in any way now, as he has proved to be a hypocrite, but one cannot help but wonder what a different direction we might have taken. The notes I took on this one simply say, "EGAD, how far removed have we become in twenty years.
Evan Wolfson: Marriage Equality and Lessons for the Scary Work of Winning: September 30, 2004
This speech was given at the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association's "Lavender Law" conference. It is one of the many later speeches that speak to not just LGBTQ people but "non-gay allies," which is good, because there are so many of us who absolutely support the rights of minorities of which we are not members. The earlier speeches were very untrusting of straight people to stand up for the rights of gays, but thankfully that has changed. I have gay and lesbian friends, but I have many more straight friends simply because there are more of us, and with the exception of maybe one or two, ALL OF US are huge supporters of human rights.
Wolfson is an attorney, civil rights activist and founder of Freedom to Marry, a national organization that was an advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriages. Of course, looking back now, we can see how all this tremendous effort put forth by all people who wanted equality and justice for all people paid off. But historically, we can see how the wheels turned and the steps taken to ensure success.
One of the phrases he uses frequently is "helped and no one hurt," as certain groups such as the Moral Majority (which was neither), made the whole question of even being gay dangerous and sinful.
In this speech, Wolfson discusses marriage laws and how they have gradually evolved over the decades. This includes ending the rules that the government could decide that couples would remain married even when the marriage had failed or become abusive; ending race restriction rules; ending the government's interference as to whether or not to procreate or use birth control, and ended legal subordination or women in marriage. We've come a long way, baby. (That was an old cigarette commercial slogan.)
He points out that it was the states that made their own laws about marriage, and other states honored them. Until DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, pushed through by the opponents of same-sex marriage, giving the federal government for the first time in history the right to interfere with marriage. Here is a quote:
This federal anti-marriage law creates an un-American caste system of the first and second class marriages. If the federal government likes whom you marry, you get a vast array of legal and economic protections and recognitions—ranging from Social Security and access to health care, to veterans benefits and immigration rights, to taxation and inheritance, and a myriad of others (in a 2004 report the GAO identified 1,138 ways in which marriage implicates federal law). Under the so-called DOMA, if the federal government doesn't like whom you married, this typically automatic federal recognition and protection are withdrawn in all circumstances, no matter what the need.
He then sets out a game plan, which includes winning over the "Middle"—those who are undecided as to where they stand for same-sex marriage, citing that ending marriage discrimination for same-sex couples is necessary because it is wrong and unfair, and backs it up with many points.
Paul Martin: The Civil Marriage Act; February 16, 2005
Paul Martin was the twenty-first Prime Minister of Canada, from 2003 to 2006. He gave this speech in support of the Civil Marriage Act at the Canadian House of Commons. It is an excellent speech! Canada was way ahead of us!! He states at the beginning that the bill protects minority rights and religious freedom, because there were some who feared that churches that did not agree with same-sex marriage would be forced to perform them. He assures the House that churches would be free to choose. The other rebuttals to opponents include their insistence to hold a national referendum on the bill. He disagrees, because the Charter is there to uphold the rights of all, including minorities, and a referendum would not ensure that minorities were fully represented. The other issue by opponents was that they agreed on same-sex civil unions, which would be similar to marriage but not guarantee all the rights. He says, "In other words, they would be equal but not quite as equal as the rest of Canadians." Good point! He also states:
The Charter is a living document, the heartbeat of our Constitution under a progressive and inclusive set of fundamental beliefs about the value of the individual. It declares that we all are lessened when any one of us is denied a fundamental right.
If the Charter is not there today to protect the rights of one minority, then how can we as a nation of minorities ever hope, ever believe, ever trust that it will be there to protect us tomorrow.
My responsibility as Prime Minister, my duty to Canada and to Canadians, is to defend the Charter in its entirety. Not to pick and choose the rights that our laws shall protect and those that are to be ignored. Not to decree those who shall be equal and those who shall not. My duty is to protect the Charter, as some of this House will not.
Ian Hunter: A Matter of Interest; June 17, 2009
Here we go to the other side of the world. In this very personal speech, Ian Hunter, the first openly gay member of the South Australian Legislative Council, gave this speech to that council against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He begins:
I rise today to speak about a matter close to my heart. I want to get married.
But I can't—I can't marry the person I love, not in my own country at least.
This is another excellent speech, where he points out all the countries around the world that have already legalized same-sex marriage. He says that he could "register his partnership" like he could "register his dog," and he is tired of having second-class status, and "accepting crumbs from the table." He says he could go elsewhere to be married, but, like most people wants to be married (to his partner of twenty years), here at home to celebrate with family and friends.
Same-sex marriages are legal now in Australia.
Wikipedia has a list of the other nations where it is also legal. Here is another Wikipedia page on
LGBT Social Movements.
This been a long review and I hope some of my readers make it to the end of the page, as I have put a tremendous amount of work into it. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned and because I found it all so interesting, the time and effort was well spent.
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