Civil rights should extend beyond black vs. white

Thursday in Ohio, 22 couples applied for a sort of recognized domestic partnership; in Massachusetts, wedding plans are being made between homosexual couples; and in Minnesota, partners are planning trips to Canada and other locations to consecrate their devotion to each other.

I asked my parents, who have been married since the beginning of time, what they thought about this issue and if they thought their marriage needs defending. My father looked up from his pork chop and unidentified green vegetable to inform me that was “B.S.” – and he didn’t use the abbreviation.

It occurred to me that, perhaps, we could learn something from our history. As a black man, I am constantly aware of the continuing civil rights movement in this country as are many Americans. I realize the fight continues and needs to be an ongoing effort.

There was a time in this country when the civil rights movement was only popular in small circles; the predominantly white populace did not want to entertain the ideas of integration, desegregation and equal rights. The point is not that whites were horrible people, rather that they were misinformed.

The civil rights movement grew larger and turned into a force in this country. When judges finally ruled in favor of the movement, many did not like it. Judges were writing law, defying the will of the people and forcing something on white Americans that, at the time, many viewed with disgust.

Over time, this ignorance gave way to understanding and acceptance. Seeing a black person in the halls of a previously all-white school was not seen as a horrible thing. We all share water fountains, bathrooms, restaurants and dreams, none of which are seen as an attack on nonwhites.

The fight is by no means over. Black Americans know this and are conscious of how it pertains to them. However, by definition, civil rights are the rights of the people, the rights we afford our citizens for being an American, natural born or not.

Perhaps the perception that civil rights are black and white needs to be thrown out and a broader view adopted. My father’s reaction to the defense of marriage is not one motivated by a dislike of politicians who would promote it, but rather by a belief that we are all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The push for equal rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is growing. It is a community that finds itself in a minority unlike any other, crossing race lines and ethnic backgrounds. The fight is plagued by uneducated heterosexuals who enjoy being part of the majority.

But as the civil rights movement applied to blacks, this other dimension of that movement is picking up steam. People are becoming less ignorant and better informed. People like me are realizing that discrimination against a group based on such traits is wrong and truly an expression of ignorance.

Today as we look back at the late Sen. Strom Thurmond and others who wanted to preserve explicit race discrimination, we laugh at them. We think of them as ignorant and misinformed. So it is only fitting that in the years to come, we will look back at the Bushes and others who look to preserve explicit sex discrimination in the same way. We will say they were ignorant and misinformed, unable to see that the truths we hold to be self evident do mean something, and that all men and all women are truly created equal and should be treated as such.

Those who cannot see the connection between my rights as a black man in this country and the rights of a gay man in this country have failed to grasp the meaning of a much-applauded civil rights movement. Once they do, they will see that marriage is as under attack by homosexuals as Eagan is under attack by me.

Chris Montana is a political science second-year and College Democrats of Minnesota member. He welcomes comments at [email protected]