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Paula Skaggs

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The Civil Rights of a Generation

Posted: 05/09/2012 11:18 am

North Carolina's Amendment One -- which bans same-sex marriage -- didn't win by a landslide. Reporting precincts are showing it passed about 60 percent to 40 percent. And, as it is with the majority of issue voting, most of the people who voted for it probably weren't the adamant, homophobic, right-wing nut jobs we'd like to initially believe -- most of the people were loving parents, friends and family who were probably on the fence about which way to vote, and were ultimately persuaded by one little comment, or a trusted source encouraging them to vote for it. Most of them probably didn't want to stand out, didn't want to shake the status quo and so, they voted with their perceived majority.

This is, unfortunately, how most voters make their decisions -- based on how they think others will make theirs. America, it's time we changed that. LGBT rights are going to continue to be an enormous issue in the 2012 elections, with thirteen states to be tentatively voting on the issue of same-sex marriage in some capacity. And, as a whole, the odds are in favor of it passing. An April 25 poll from the Pew Research Center shows that 47 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, while 43 percent are opposed. This is an enormous step up from 2008, when only 39 percent were in favor, and 51 percent were opposed.

In his 1963 "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed many of the obstacles the civil rights movement was facing at the time. Although the letter as a whole has really stood the test of time, one part still stands out from the rest, especially in the context of our current times. In his letter, he notes that it's "not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner" that's the biggest stumbling block to equality, but rather the "white moderate." He describes the white moderate as someone who would rather see order than justice, and is content to quietly stick with a status quo he/she disagrees with, than to make any sort of protest. "[It is one] who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice... Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

I strongly believe that, yet again, it is the moderate who is most standing in the way of LGBT rights, the Civil Rights Movement of this generation. Yet again, we're struggling for the government -- whether it's on the local, state or federal level -- to recognize that truly all people are created equal, and that a breach of anyone's rights is a breach of everyone's rights. And, yet again, we are in the midst of a history-changing moment, where we can choose to either stand up and fight for what is clearly the right thing, or we can sit quietly and let history pass us by. Don't be the "white moderate" of this movement. Refuse to sit back and remain silent, just because you'd rather be unheard than make a scene. If you believe, like the majority of Americans, that to make an exception to Americans' rights -- to legally declare that one specific sect of legal citizens shouldn't be allowed the same freedoms as everyone else -- is to trivialize all Americans' rights, then start making that known.

Standing up doesn't have to mean draping yourself in rainbow flags or losing your voice at a protest -- it can be as simple as updating your Facebook status, talking to co-workers about why you believe in marriage equality or even just signing a petition. Every single action, no matter how small it seems, adds up to make an enormous impact, and to demonstrate to each other and the rest of the world that we, as a country, will not stand for this inequality.

We're going to defeat this, whether it's this year or in fifteen years. North Carolina doesn't define a nation. Our nation is going to be defined by the millions upon millions of people who understand that equality isn't limited to sexuality, and human rights aren't something that should be given only to those you agree with. Love is something we all deserve, and we should all be free to express. So let's start making ourselves heard.

 

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