American unity is a farce until equal rights

I got two painful reminders last week that, although we’re all playing along with this united America thing, it is far from the truth. As long as prejudice remains in the United States, we’ll never be truly united.

The first horrible reminder came this past Wednesday, in the form of a fax to my workplace. A shortsighted Baptist church in Kansas wanted to remind us the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were simply God’s way of punishing “fag America.” It went on to advocate picketing the funeral of one of the pilots because he was gay. Just reading the headline enraged me. After fully reading its contents, I was once again disgusted to live in a society where people are persecuted for their private behaviors.

Prejudicial, homophobic, racist, sexist and judgmental people are the reason this country will never truly be united. To these people, it is not good enough to be an American or even a human being – you have to fit into a certain (heterosexual) mold before you are truly deserving of God’s love and salvation.

To those who believe being gay or lesbian is a sin or the wrong way to live, you are wrong. Plain and simple, you are wrong. Every person in this world is just as good as another person. It doesn’t matter if you come from the United States or South Africa; are white or Latino, straight or gay or transgender, man or woman, short or tall; have blue eyes or brown eyes; work on Wall Street or polish shoes in the airport. We’re all human. We all have fears and dreams; we all feel pain. And God loves us all. No one better, no one worse.

Do you think the families of gay and lesbian people are mourning any less than the families of straight people killed at the World Trade Center? Gay and lesbian people in the United States, and around the world, have been targeted for decades. Why? They feel the same emotions straight people feel; they just feel them for someone of the same sex. Why do others care? Gay and lesbian people do not tell other people how to live or judge
them – straight people shouldn’t either.

This fax followed on the heels of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s ridiculous comments on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” television program just a few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He blamed abortionists, liberals, gays and lesbians, and the American Civil Liberties Union for angering God and for partial responsibility for the attacks: “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked,” Falwell said. “And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad.”

Falwell continued, “The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle; the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

Robertson responded, “Well, I totally concur.”

So just days after our nation has been faced with the largest attack of its history, after the country lost more people in a single day than almost any other – including Pearl Harbor and D-Day – these two ignorant religious leaders are blaming alternative lifestyles. It is people of this mindset who ruin the United States and tear at its fabric -not gays and lesbians, or abortionists, or feminists.

My second reminder we are not united came as I read a New York Times article last week. The U.S. House of Representatives finally passed a Washington, D.C., domestic partners law after nine years of stalling. During those nine years, domestic partners could not receive insurance and other economic benefits through their life partners. They were not granted visiting rights if their partners were in a hospital. For nine years, the federal government stalled on this legislation because many Republican legislators believe it undermines the sanctity of marriage.

Well, here’s a little insight for them: It wouldn’t undermine marriage if the term marriage could apply to any union of two people who love and care for each other and choose to make that commitment. The religious definition of sanctity of marriage is injured all the time, by people who get divorced – including many of these legislators. The term marriage should signify two people of any sexual orientation who make a loving, lifetime commitment to another person. It does not matter what sex the two people are; it matters if they’re willing to make the sacrifices needed for marriage. And there are plenty of heterosexual people who are not up to that challenge.

Until these bigoted leaders are voted out of Washington, nothing will ever change for gay and lesbian people in the United States. They sit on Capitol Hill, giving grandiose speeches about how the United States is united and 100 percent behind President George W. Bush. But those same leaders are saying the gay and lesbian people of the country are not worthy of the same liberties others are afforded.

These egotists believe their way is the only way, and that God agrees. Have any of these religious and governmental leaders ever heard the Bible teaching about not judging thy neighbor? Their holier-than-thou attitudes are destroying this country.

It is time for all of this to stop. This vile, homophobic attitude spans from the ruthless, ignorant comments made about gays and lesbians in private settings to the denial of rights by state and federal legislators. Until these prejudicial sentiments are corrected, the idea of a united America is trashed before its even begun.


Erin Ghere’s column appears alternate Mondays. She welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]