FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Will the US Catch Up with Africa?

This week, the South African parliament legalized same-sex marriage. The same country that up until only twelve years ago brutally enforced apartheid segregation against the majority Black and Brown population threw off generations of reactionary attitudes toward homosexuality and joined the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and Belgium in granting equal marriage rights to gays.

Think about that. Here in the U.S. on election day voters in seven states approved of gay marriage bans; while in a part of the world that most Americans are taught to think of as “backward,” gays and lesbians share the same legal rights as straight people.

Some may argue that most Americans are just too conservative. I think that’s nonsense. Rather, most Americans have never heard a straight-forward, unequivocal, civil rights defense of same-sex marriage. Compare the words of a leading figure of the African National Congress (ANC) to those of Democratic Party members.

The ANC Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula demanded that all ANC members of parliament vote to legalize same-sex marriage arguing, “In breaking with our past…we need to fight and resist all forms of discrimination and prejudice, including homophobia.” Not bad.

Here’s liberal darling Barack Obama on the same issue from his official Web site: “I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I agreewith Vice President Cheney that decisions about marriage, as they always have, should be left to the states.” So while Obama opposes a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the best he can bleat out is leave it to the states to decide. One must wonder if Obama also believes that Blacks’ civil rights ought to have been left in the hands of state legislatures in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Hillary Clinton’s no better. At a meeting with gay Democrats in late October, she defended both her husband’s Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits gay marriage and her own silence on the Senate floor this summer during the “debate” on an amendment to ban it in the Constitution. It was strategic, she explained, “We thought as-force the Republicans out there, make them look like they’re trying to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution. We don’t even want to dignify it.” With that logic, why dignify the Republicans’ argument for war on the entire Middle East with any response? Just sit back and watch them collapse. Oops, that was the Dems’ antiwar strategy in November. On the war, the Democrats won despite themselves-evidently the weight of thousands of dead Americans and Iraqis and hundreds of billions of dollars hemorrhaging out of state coffers was enough to convince the electorate to dump the status quo.

As my colleague Joel Geier likes to put it, politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In other words, if you don’t make an argument, you can’t win it. With the Democrats at best silent and at worst in opposition to gay marriage, the only prominent voices on same-sex marriage were those of right-wingers. In the absence of any high-profile attempt to defend the rights of gays to have access to the more than 1,000 rights and benefits that come with marriage, those same-sex marriage bans passed.

It’s important to note that Bush and the Republicans failed to make much headway this fall over this issue when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to the same state benefits, protections and obligations as all married couples. A February Zogby poll showed that a majority in New Jersey favored marriage for gay couples-by a margin of 56 percent to 39 percent. And while seven states voted to ban same-sex marriage, Arizona voters bucked that trend and defeated a proposed ban. As for the holy rollers who haven’t yet been caught buying crystal meth and sex from gay prostitutes, I’m happy to report that James Dobson’s evangelical Focus on the Family was stuck with plenty of leftover cookies and apple juice in September when only 3,000 turned out to a 17,000-person venue in Pittsburgh.

As any casual perusal of popular culture or even Gallup polls will show, a majority of Americans have a live and let live attitude toward gays. While a narrow majority (52%) continues to oppose extending marriage rights to gays, it seems a legacy of miserable centrist Democratic Party politics-unfortunately too often accepted by gay advocacy groups like Human Rights Campaign who raise the most tepid of slogans and abhor “embarrassing” the Democrats.

As the elections showed so eloquently, we don’t live in a country filled with warmongering bigots. Instead, we live in a country where most working-class people are appalled at the policies and priorities of those in positions of power. Over the coming months and years, we need to find ways to assert our own priorities because if left to the Democrats, I shudder to think how they’ll fill the vacuum.

SHERRY WOLF is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review and can be reached at sherry@internationalsocialist.org.

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail