This commentary is in place of Rev. Monroe’s “Inclusion”
month, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
(LGBTQ) Americans and our allies celebrated New York State
becoming the sixth and largest state to allow same-sex
of course, it sent an urgent message to Obama.
what does it signal to us LGBTQ citizens when the first
African American president wants to employ states’ rights,
which once upon a time in this country federally mandated
racial segregation and sanctioned American slavery, to
address the issue of same-sex marriage?
a civil rights attorney, Obama knows that employing states’
rights violates our full constitutional rights as well
as reinstitutionalizes the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case
of Plessy v. Ferguson. As a result of that case, the "separate
but equal" doctrine became the rule of law until
it was struck down in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education
fight for marriage equality in the U.S. is similar to
my ancestors’ fight for freedom. In their day, before
the Civil War in 1861, the U.S. consisted of nineteen
free states and fifteen slave states. As a matter of fact,
in the 2004 presidential race between John Kerry and George
Bush where marriage equality was a hot-button issue, the
election map results between Kerry’s blues states and
Bush’s red states corresponded to the pre-civil war free
states and slave states, respectively.
LGBTQ Americans we're not in slavery, but we certainly
will be in a civil war as each state battles this issue.
Whereas President Lincoln acted on behalf of my ancestor’s
civil rights, we need to call on Obama to move on ours.
Or else we’ll use our gay dollars on another candidate.
president has staked out a cynical political position
aimed at not rocking the boat," said Richard Socarides,
who advised President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues.
"This states’ rights argument is a separate but equal
argument. Would the president have thought it right to
let the states decide on the issue of interracial marriage,
or on whether or not women should be allowed to vote?"
2008, a blogger on Pam’s House Blend was prescient and
saw the painting on the wall about Obama’s as a full-throated
LGBTQ civil rights advocate and wrote:
needs to remember that an African-American woman named
Mildred Loving not only set the precedent for same-sex
marriage, but also allowed Obama's parents to marry by
challenging states’ rights.
gained notoriety when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in
her favor that anti-miscegenation laws executed by the
state are unconstitutional. Married to a white man, Loving
and her husband were indicted by a Virginia grand jury
in October 1958 for violating the state's 'Racial Integrity
Act of 1924." The trial judge suspended their sentences
on the condition the Lovings leave Virginia and not return
to the state together for 25 years. The Lovings initially
agreed and left, but returned soon after and decided to
fight their case.
June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the
opinion of the high court:
Rights leaders such as the late Coretta Scott King, Representative
John Lewis, NAACP Chair Julian bond, and Reverend Al Sharpton
have long supported equal marriage protection for LGBTQ
citizens. In fact, John Lewis filed a friend-of-the court
brief in the Massachusetts case that led to the state
becoming the first in the country to legalize marriage
equality. And the California State NAACP filed an amicus
brief, as did the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York
advocating that same-sex marriage should be left up to
the states ABC News reported Obama stating, "I think
it's important for us to work through these issues because
each community is going to be different, each state is
going to be different."
after nearly one full term in office, Obama is still unaware
of the deleterious effects of how the Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA) prevents the federal government from fully
protecting same-sex nuptials. DOMA denies us a government-issued
civil marriage license, and over 1100 federal rights and
benefits, including social security benefits, the ability
to file a joint federal tax return, and the right to petition
for a spouse to immigrate, among other benefits and responsibilities
conferred upon heterosexual married couples.
how many sides are there to a politician's mouth eyeing
Obama were to come out for marriage equality today, nothing
could happen tomorrow," said one Democratic strategist
close to the administration who spoke on condition of
anonymity to ABCNews.com. "The Defense of Marriage
Act still needs to be repealed, and that won't happen
soon with a Republican-controlled House in place."
was reminded that it is my obligation not only as an elected
official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian,
to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness
to support gay marriage is misguided," Obama wrote
in his recent memoir, "The Audacity of Hope."
our President states his opinion is still "evolving"
on this issue, he needs to know that we LGBTQ Americans
and our families want to sample what he and Michelle and
every heterosexual married couple take for granted --
marriage, not marriage-lite.
democracy can only begin to work when those relegated
to the fringes of society can sample what those in society
take for granted as their inalienable right. For that
to happen people, like state lawmakers, have to step in
to make the democratic process work for us all.
so, too, our president!
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BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a
religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the
African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion
and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley
College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University,
and served as a pastor at an African-American church before
coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as
a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list
of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on
Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for
a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her
website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev. Monroe.