Same-sex marriage, civil rights

by John Oliver Mason, The Mason Missile, July 4, 2014

Greetings! At last! Pennsylvania has joined the roster of states legalizing same-sex marriage. Originally, the plan was to have the court, and thereby the state, recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. The federal court, however, took it to the next level.

Bans on same sex marriage are also being challenged in Texas and Utah, traditionally conservative states. There has been the fear raised about how same-sex marriage would change the definition of marriage, that it would lead to marrying farm animals (ridiculous!). But HAS the definition of marriage ALWAYS been one-man, one-women, till death they do part?

In the Torah, we have Abraham marrying Sarah and holding Hagar as a concubine-servant; Jacob conned into marrying Leah, and marrying Rachel after seven more years of work with Laban; Jacob’s wives and concubines together giving birth to Jacob’s sons; David marrying Machal, then lusting after Bathsheba; Solomon with a thousand wives and concubines to seal alliances with neighboring tribes and kingdoms. So, you can’t say “religious values” as a reason for why marriage is a one-man-one-woman thing.

One book that discusses this is Sex At Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, which chronicles marriage practices among indigenous tribes in Central and South America and in the Pacific; in many tribes marriage and divorce is as simple as leaving and entering the other person’s hut, usually on the initiative of the female; many of these tribes are matriarchal, with much decision-making by the women. In more patriarchal societies, marriage has nothing to do with who loves who, but it is a matter of transferring property and sealing alliances.

Echoes of this is in the new conservative Christian phenomenon of “purity balls,” featured on ABC News; the fathers pledge to protect the sexual “purity” of their daughters and vet any men that go near them. At the “purity ball,” the fathers sign a pledge to watch over the purity of their daughters “as high priest of the home.” The fathers sign it, and it resembles a marriage vow, and they conclude with a “father-daughter” dance. As far as I know, there is no similar ritual that fathers take towards guarding the “purity” of their sons; the sexuality of the young women is thus the property of the father, and it is transferred, via marriage, to the husband.

All this takes place in the anniversary of the Stonewall riot of June 1969, when young Gay men, drag queens, and lesbians sat in a crummy, mob-owned bar and the police came to raid the place and arrest everyone; but, this time, instead of taking the harassment and abuse from the cops, the patrons fought the riot cops for several days, thus starting the current LGBT rights movement.

There was, previous to the Stonewall riot, underground organizing of Gay men and Lesbians; there was the Mattachine Society, called a “homophile” organization, founded in 1950 by Harry Hay, who was a veteran organizer for the Community Party and the CIO; and the lesbian Daughters of Bilitis, founded in 1955 by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. These groups were organized in the 1950s, the time of the Red Scare, the time when “homosexuals” were considered security risks. All this could be seen in the wonderful documentary film Before Stonewall, go rent the DVD; it shows the enormous historical and political “prep work” that went on before the Stonewall incident.

Really, equality doesn’t need the permission of others to happen. But still it has been fought for, usually with blood. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of three young Civil Rights activists–James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman–in June 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, during the “Freedom Summer” campaign to register Black people to vote. They investigated the arson fire at a Black church, were later arrested by the police for “speeding,” and then were handed over to the Ku Klux Klan to be killed.

Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in schools, housing, and other facilities. (Voting rights were not included in the bill; it was covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.) But–The Republican party has taken over the tactic of code-worded race-baiting. Not for nothing did Ronald Reagan start his presidential campaign in 1980 in a town near Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney were murdered, and he included the phrase “I believe in states’ rights,” the old war cry of the pre-Civil war-south, as their mantra for enslaving African-Americans.

It is a tribute to the Civil Rights movement–and to the young activists who risked their lives against official and freelance terror in the South–that blatant, public, in-your-face racial slurs are not acceptable in public discourse (which is the basis of the right-wing whine about–I HATE this term–”political correctness,” as if they would fight to the death for the right to scream racial and ethnic slurs). The tactic from then on was exemplified in the “Southern Strategy” of the presidential campaign of Richard Nixon in 1968, to play on racially-motivated fears of “urban crime’ and “welfare loafers.”

After the re-election of Nixon in 1972, it was as if the country had amnesia–all the discussion about Civil Rights and reducing poverty was reduced to cutting needless government spending and kicking the lazy welfare bums off the rolls, and in general reducing the size of so-called “big government”–and including liberating corporations from the burden of regulatory agencies, while consciously not discussing the problems of air and water pollution, occupational safety and health, product safety, financial fraud, to name a few, and trusting in the “free enterprise system” to handle everything, trusting the corporate geniuses (such as Bernie Madoff) running our corporations (such as Enron) to handle everything.

Remember, it was NOT the federal government deciding all of a sudden to implement from on high financial regulation, Civil Rights enforcement, occupational safety laws, consumer safety, etc.; it came from the work of dedicated activists, people like those you go to school and the job with, who worked hard at campaigning for these things-people like Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the other young brave Civil Rights activists of the Freedom Summer of 1964. We may not have to face fire hoses, mean police dogs, even meaner cops, or homicidal Klansmen, but ever time we make a stand, people will join us, and we set an example for future campaigns for freedom-and believe me, the campaign for freedom never ends.

Enjoy your Fourth-bye!

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Filed under Gay & lesbian issues, History, John Mason, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration, Religions, Republican party, Right Wing, Values

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