Separate Is Not Equal

The Case for Equality

Segregation in the United States was struck down in the landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas).  The court held in a unanimous vote that the policy of separate but equal was inherently flawed.  This set aside an 1896 ruling that allowed for separate black and white schools, not to mention other institutions.  By 1954 the court had realized the flaws of the earlier thinking, perhaps marred by personal prejudices, and ruled against the notion of separate but equal.  The establishment of two separate classes of people meant by its very nature that they were unequal in standing.

Despite the high court ruling, discrimination and segregation continued to exist throughout the 1950’s.  In fact it took federal government intervention in the 1960’s to force the end of segregation at some southern schools.  Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama famously tried to stop integration of universities in their states and maintain segregation.  While Governor Wallace remained popular in his state, Barnett, an avowed segregationist, was a one term governor.  Ending segregation by court ruling, did not change the opinions of many.

The prejudices of earlier times continued to plague the following decades, court rulings not withstanding.  It was impossible to erase generations of discrimination with some decisions of the court.  Indeed, many grew up learning discrimination and hatred in their own homes.  It would not so easily be set aside.

While a variety of equal rights were secured through the remainder of the 20th century by court ruling and legislation, there was one area where discrimination was being written into state laws.  Indeed the fear card started to be played anew when rights for certain citizens were being discussed.  It started when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in 1993 that the refusal to grant same-sex marriages was discriminatory.  In the years that immediately followed many states, including Hawaii, wrote laws to ban same-sex marriage.  In 1998 voters in Hawaii gave the legislature the right to define marriage as an opposite sex couple.

The systematic adoption of such laws across the country set up two classes of people.  The 104th Congress piled on in 1996 with the now infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This law institutionalized discrimination and denied basic benefits to same sex couples that were provided to opposite sex couples in almost a thousand laws. This included estate benefits or right to inherit, joint tax filings, survivor social security benefits, and so on.  The very establishment of another class of citizen would be the eventual downfall of DOMA.5doma

The federal government had always held that whoever a state recognized as married was married, but then they tried to deny benefits under DOMA to those a state found to be married.  The most egregious example was brought to the attention of the high court in United States v. Windsor.  It was a fight taken up on behalf of an elderly woman whose marriage in New York did not seem to matter to the feds when her partner died and they took everything.  They did not recognize her right to inherit.  Either the feds recognized the marriages that were recognized by states, or they did not.  They could not have two classes of citizens.  The court saw DOMA as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” and struck down some of its provisions.

Despite this ruling, as well as overturning California’s attempt to ban gay marriage through Proposition 8, there are still a majority of states that declare that a particular two people in love are not equal to another two people in love.  It is the case of setting up another class of citizen.  Apparently, many states are still under the notion this is OK.  People talk about the institution of marriage as if some God came down from on high with a set of rules about this.

Yes, I already know what some are thinking, but since I do not know ancient Aramaic, I will not pretend that the interpretations and translations of the Bible handed me by the religious right are necessarily correct.  Nor do I buy into any of the other scare tactics they use to convince us to set up a separate class.  That separate class thing just does not stand up against any test when Supreme Court justices have to sit and listen to it.

In the new political climate states are introducing “religious freedom laws” and “bathroom laws” that are discriminatory at their cores.  They allow for setting up separate classes and separate treatments of various people, not because of criminal activity, but for who they are, who they love, who they identify as.  Will the current high court strike down this discrimination, or institutionalize it as present leaders would like to do?

Separate Is Not Equal

The Case for Equality

Segregation in the United States was struck down in the landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas).  The court held in a unanimous vote that the policy of separate but equal was inherently flawed.  This set aside an 1896 ruling that allowed for separate black and white schools, not to mention other institutions.  By 1954 the court had realized the flaws of the earlier thinking, perhaps marred by personal prejudices, and ruled against the notion of separate but equal.  The establishment of two separate classes of people meant by its very nature that they were unequal in standing.

Despite the high court ruling, discrimination and segregation continued to exist throughout the 1950’s.  In fact it took federal government intervention in the 1960’s to force the end of segregation at some southern schools.  Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama famously tried to stop integration of universities in their states and maintain segregation.  While Governor Wallace remained popular in his state, Barnett, an avowed segregationist, was a one term governor.  Ending segregation by court ruling, did not change the opinions of many.

The prejudices of earlier times continued to plague the following decades, court rulings not withstanding.  It was impossible to erase generations of discrimination with some decisions of the court.  Indeed, many grew up learning discrimination and hatred in their own homes.  It would not so easily be set aside.

While a variety of equal rights were secured through the remainder of the 20th century by court ruling and legislation, there was one area where discrimination was being written into state laws.  Indeed the fear card started to be played anew when rights for certain citizens were being discussed.  It started when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in 1993 that the refusal to grant same-sex marriages was discriminatory.  In the years that immediately followed many states, including Hawaii, wrote laws to ban same-sex marriage.  In 1998 voters in Hawaii gave the legislature the right to define marriage as an opposite sex couple.

The systematic adoption of such laws across the country set up two classes of people.  The 104th Congress piled on in 1996 with the now infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This law institutionalized discrimination and denied basic benefits to same sex couples that were provided to opposite sex couples in almost a thousand laws, including estate benefits or right to inherit, joint tax filings, survivor social security benefits, and so on.  The very establishment of another class of citizen would be the eventual downfall of DOMA.5doma

The federal government had always held that whoever a state recognized as married was married, but then tried to deny benefits under DOMA to those a state found to be married.  The most egregious example was brought to the attention of the high court in United States v. Windsor.  It was a fight taken up on behalf of an elderly woman whose marriage in New York did not seem to matter to the feds when her partner died and they took everything.  They did not recognize her right to inherit.  Either the feds recognized the marriages that were recognized by states or they did not.  They could not have two classes of citizens.  The court saw DOMA as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” and struck down some of its provisions.

Despite this ruling, as well as overturning California’s attempt to ban gay marriage through Proposition 8, there are still a majority of states that declare that a particular two people in love are not equal to another two people in love.  It is the case of setting up another class of citizen.  Apparently, many states are still under the notion this is OK.  People talk about the institution of marriage as if some God came down from on high with a set of rules about this.

Yes, I already know what some are thinking, but since I do not know ancient Aramaic, I will not pretend that the interpretations and translations of the Bible handed me by the religious right are necessarily correct.  Nor do I buy into any of the other scare tactics they use to convince us to set up a separate class.  That separate class thing just does not stand up against any test when Supreme Court justices have to sit and listen to it.

Olympic diver stands up

Last year when Anderson Cooper decided to come out as gay, I offered the opinion (reprinted below) that his announcement was not the “news.”  Does the social media really have to light up cyberspace with comments every time this happens?  I reread my article after British Olympic diver Tom Daley, now 19, came out in a You Tube video this past week.  Perhaps this was not as big here in the USA as the Cooper story, but it did turn out as big news around the world.  In the run up to the London Olympic games, Great Britain pinned a big piece of its Olympic hopes on the handsome teenager who was collecting medals in competitions around the world.  He become a local celebrity and was seen frequently on television and You Tube promos.

You have to admire Daley for wanting to do this on his own terms, before it became a big splash, so to speak.  A few weeks ago I placed a fictional piece here about a teen coming out on You Tube.  Teens and young men and women seem to do this a lot, but none as high-profile as Daley.  Below you can watch this high diver doing something many teens probably would not like to do, but feel that they have to do to get a weight off their young shoulders.

What is and is not the news

Just because someone tells us something, it does not make it news. For something to be news for us, it has to be, well, new to us. If we all know something, or most of us anyway, then the story is not the news. When Elton John or George Michael came out and said he is gay, we could collectively reply, “So, what?” It is not as if we didn’t know by then anyway. Years of watching them dance around the issue had already lead us to the right conclusion. They may have come out of the closet but the door was already open and we could all see in. It was not news.
Neal Patrick Harris and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) took away the story by announcing they were gay. It is not much of a story if the celebrity has already told everyone, whether it was in a simple press release or some flamboyant manner. Ellen DeGeneres famously ended speculation by telling it on her sitcom, but the story was already making the rounds. Ricky Martin told the world, when the world already knew. That is partly because so-called reporters, paparazzi actually, followed him around trying to get a picture with a boyfriend. From veteran actor Richard Chamberlain to new star Chris Colfer and many in between, there is no story to the revelation they are gay. It may sell some supermarket tabloids for a while, but is it really news?
In the week just past, there was another high-profile, non-story to be reported. The fact is, Anderson Cooper is gay. The fact is, it was a well-known “secret” anyway. He told us he was open with his family, friends and colleagues, but he successfully avoided answering the “gay question” until now. Did he tell us because the story was about to be broken anyway? No, the editor of The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan, a longtime friend of Anderson, was given permission by Cooper to print an email he had received from his friend. The reason behind it is where the actual story lies.
In response to recent news events of bullying, gay teen suicide, hate preached from pulpits and politicians attempting to deny rights to gay people, many celebrities have come forward not to make news of themselves, but to show strength in numbers. Sullivan feels the “visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality,” and he asked for Cooper’s comments on the matter. In a long email response which you can find here, Cooper reported his feelings on this issue.
If you knew little of Anderson Cooper’s private life before now, it was by design. As a reporter in dangerous places, he had to be concerned that his private life could put himself and his colleagues in peril. He also had the desire that most of us have, to keep some aspects of our lives strictly to ourselves and our loved ones. As a reporter, he should not be judged by who he loves or who loves him, but by whether he “shows fairness and honesty in his work.” In a long career, Cooper has gained a strong reputation as a fair reporter and interviewer on CNN and CBS’ 60 Minutes. The many sad stories of gay youth and gay couples probably brought a stronger personal response by Cooper than even a friend of two decades could have anticipated.
Cooper admits he is not “an activist”, just a reporter trying to do his job. He is also a human being, and thoughts that he may have been hiding (in plain sight, I might add) was a reason to stand up and be counted. He has no “gay agenda” to push. He could not be a reporter if he did have. He is a gay human being who cares about what is going on all around us.
Immediately after the Daily Beast ran the Anderson Cooper email, bloggers and vloggers and tweeters and social media junkies from all around the internet had something to say about this “breaking story.” Some praised Cooper for his stand, some blasted him for waiting so long. I am sure many on the so-called Christian right had terrible things to say that I will not hear, since I try to avoid the hate mongers. I suppose the alleged story will go on a little while longer until the commentators have had their fill. Remember this, however, the news this past week is not that Anderson Cooper came out, since so many knew anyway. The real story is another human being was called to weigh in, and he did, big time.

What is and is not the news

Just because someone tells us something, it does not make it news. For something to be news for us, it has to be, well, new to us. If we all know something, or most of us anyway, then the story is not the news. When Elton John or George Michael came out and said he is gay, we could collectively reply, “So, what?” It is not as if we didn’t know by then anyway. Years of watching them dance around the issue had already lead us to the right conclusion. They may have come out of the closet but the door was already open and we could all see in. It was not news.
Neal Patrick Harris and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) took away the story by announcing they were gay. It is not much of a story if the celebrity has already told everyone, whether it was in a simple press release or some flamboyant manner. Ellen DeGeneres famously ended speculation by telling it on her sitcom, but the story was already making the rounds. Ricky Martin told the world, when the world already knew. That is partly because so-called reporters, paparazzi actually, followed him around trying to get a picture with a boyfriend. From veteran actor Richard Chamberlain to new star Chris Colfer and many in between, there is no story to the revelation they are gay. It may sell some supermarket tabloids for a while, but is it really news?
In the week just past, there was another high-profile, non-story to be reported. The fact is, Anderson Cooper is gay. The fact is, it was a well-known “secret” anyway. He told us he was open with his family, friends and colleagues, but he successfully avoided answering the “gay question” until now. Did he tell us because the story was about to be broken anyway? No, the editor of The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan, a longtime friend of Anderson, was given permission by Cooper to print an email he had received from his friend. The reason behind it is where the actual story lies.
In response to recent news events of bullying, gay teen suicide, hate preached from pulpits and politicians attempting to deny rights to gay people, many celebrities have come forward not to make news of themselves, but to show strength in numbers. Sullivan feels the “visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality,” and he asked for Cooper’s comments on the matter. In a long email response which you can find here, Cooper reported his feelings on this issue.
If you knew little of Anderson Cooper’s private life before now, it was by design. As a reporter in dangerous places, he had to be concerned that his private life could put himself and his colleagues in peril. He also had the desire that most of us have, to keep some aspects of our lives strictly to ourselves and our loved ones. As a reporter, he should not be judged by who he loves or who loves him, but by whether he “shows fairness and honesty in his work.” In a long career, Cooper has gained a strong reputation as a fair reporter and interviewer on CNN and CBS’ 60 Minutes. The many sad stories of gay youth and gay couples probably brought a stronger personal response by Cooper than even a friend of two decades could have anticipated.
Cooper admits he is not “an activist”, just a reporter trying to do his job. He is also a human being, and thoughts that he may have been hiding (in plain sight, I might add) was a reason to stand up and be counted. He has no “gay agenda” to push. He could not be a reporter if he did have. He is a gay human being who cares about what is going on all around us.
Immediately after the Daily Beast ran the Anderson Cooper email, bloggers and vloggers and tweeters and social media junkies from all around the internet had something to say about this “breaking story.” Some praised Cooper for his stand, some blasted him for waiting so long. I am sure many on the so-called Christian right had terrible things to say that I will not hear, since I try to avoid the hate mongers. I suppose the alleged story will go on a little while longer until the commentators have had their fill. Remember this, however, the news this past week is not that Anderson Cooper came out, since so many knew anyway. The real story is another human being was called to weigh in, and he did, big time.