Photos: DOMA and DOMA Down by Murray Archibald.
Equality in Motion
The Supreme Court’s June 27 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was the apex in a sequence of events that started with the success of gay marriage in several states during the 2012 election cycle. In Delaware, where we are also still celebrating the recent success of the marriage equality and gender identity nondiscrimination bills, we are especially thrilled at the progress we’ve made.
I started to end that last sentence with, “in such a short period of time,” but the reality is that a great many people have been working toward equality for decades. We can rejoice that the fruits of those labors have ripened all at once, but the tree on which they grew was planted and nurtured long ago.
Here in America, the word “freedom” has an almost holy meaning, but it is sometimes confused with equality. Freedom allows us to live as we wish; equality gives us all the same rights and treatments. Throughout its history, heroic Americans have worked to ensure equal rights for all, and though overall the struggle has been in a forward direction, the battles along the way were exhausting and required the efforts of many. From slavery to civil rights and gender equality, cultural change has never come swiftly—but it does come.
I grew up in the deep South, but as a little boy my parents took great pains to teach me that we are all created equal. Not until I was older did I understand that not everyone thought the way my family did on the matter of race. I still to this day remember the first time I heard someone’s intelligence questioned because of the color of their skin. I was outraged. Nothing I said seemed to make a difference. It was my first lesson in the meaning of prejudice.
As a boy, I was fond of listening to my Mother’s collection of records—especially the musicals (of course!)—and one of my early favorites was South Pacific. I can’t memorize anything these days, but I still remember all the lyrics to the songs in South Pacific, especially: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear; you’ve got to be taught from year to year; it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear; you’ve got to be carefully taught.”
The opposite of that song is also true, and I’m grateful that as a child my parents instilled in all their children an acceptance of those who are different from us.
One of the benefits of living in an internet connected culture is our ability to instantly keep up with all that everyone has to say on any given matter. The downside is that we can keep up with what everyone has to say on any given matter. We get the good with the bad, so every time we read something good about LGBT progress we also get the flip side—and a lot of it is just the repetition of tired old myths about how gay marriage will destroy the family and other such nonsense.
Equality never hurts anyone; inequality is what damages relationships.
Walt Whitman says: “Of Equality—as if it harm’d me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself—as if it were not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same.”
A recent article in Atlantic magazine (and also recently referenced by my fellow Letters from CAMP Rehoboth writer John Siegfried in the previous issue), asked: “What if same-sex marriage does change marriage, but primarily for the better?” Because gay relationships are not tied to old gender role stereotypes, both partners are in an equal relationship and each couple is free to decide who will do what—from being a stay-at-home mom or dad, to cutting the grass or doing the grocery shopping. “But the larger change might be this:” the article goes on to say, “by providing a new model of how two people can live together equitably, same-sex marriage could help haul matrimony more fully into the 21st century.”
My partner Steve and I joke all the time about the roles we play in our relationship. He loves to pretend he doesn’t know how to turn on the dishwasher or the clothes dryer; I almost never have to pump gas. It didn’t start out that way, but over the almost 35 years (in September) that we’ve been together, we, like other gay couples, have created a relationship that makes us happy. Straight couples do that as well, but at the same time have to battle a whole host of stereotypes to succeed.
As is so often the case in life, balance is the key to a successful relationship. If one partner is subservient to the other—if both partners are not equal in the relationship—it will eventually topple over.
Equality is about more than just marriage: it’s about the way we treat everyone we meet. From the rich and powerful to the homeless in our community, when we look right into the eyes of our fellow human beings, we see we are one people. That doesn’t mean we will agree with everyone; it does mean that we see them—really see them—as equals.
CAMP Rehoboth’s vision calls us to “create a more positive world.” For 23 years we have worked “to promote community well-being” and “…human and civil rights;” and to end “prejudice and discrimination.” Though our efforts are LGBT centered, ultimately all work dealing with matters of equality is good for us all—gay and straight.
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach.