The Time Is Now to End Discrimination Against Our LGBTQ Community

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case this morning about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was a federal act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 (United States v Windsor), which defined marriage between a man and a woman. Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of California’s 2008 voter-approved Proposition 8. California voters took away the rights of our LGBTQ community to legally marrying by passing Prop. 8 in November 2008. This negated the California State Supreme Court ruling of May 2008 that overturned the voter-approved statute Proposition 22 (2000), which defined marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex.

Marriage equality advocates and allies are asking people to upload a red equality logo on social media profiles today and tomorrow. Many of my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram friends have already done so. Usually my posts are about community issues; however, the fight for marriage equality and the rights of our LGBTQ community qualifies as a community concern.

Do you know many of our LGBTQ teens are bullied at school because of their sexual orientation? Did you know that suicide in the LGBTQ community is higher than any other community because of the shame we feel about who we are? Do you know that there are many states that do not protect LGBQT people from work discrimination, and that 30-plus states have banned LGBTQ folks from marrying the person they love? It is unconstitutional and shameful.

Back in the summer of 2008, a handful of young political activists, including myself, participated in a conference organized by the California Young Democrats. The main topic of that conference was how to defeat the upcoming battle and threat that Prop. 8 posed to our families. When I returned home that fateful day, I knew it was time to tell my mother one of my biggest secrets ever: I am gay.

She was so supportive and continues to be. I never planned on telling her, because I feared I would lose her and my family, which I know has happened to many in our community. I was wrong. I am closer to my mother and family more than ever before. I love you, mom, and my entire family.

Throughout my years organizing for human rights, I have met some of the most wonderful mentors. I deeply admire Judy and Karin Rickard’s fight to include LBGTQ bi-national couples in the latest push for immigration reform. Karin is British, and Judy cannot sponsor her to be a citizen because same-sex marriage is not recognized at the federal level. I also deeply admire Clark Williams and his husband, Jim Moore, for being the best fathers they can be to their beautiful daughter, for being role models for our LGBT community, and for being true public servants in our community.

I deeply admire my friends Jon D Agostino and Darrel Young, from Philadelphia, who married in San Francisco in 2004 and again in Los Angeles during the summer of 2008—prior to the passage of Prop. 8 later that year. They are proud to be one of the 18,000 same-sex couples legally married that year and eventually moved to California to live in the state where they were married. Jon and Darrell settled in San Jose, where they continue to reside, pay taxes and contribute to our community. Their experiences led them to create the March Fifth Fund, a charitable foundation to support the work of anti-discrimination efforts and programs around the country.

We all hope that Chief Justice John Roberts looks stands on the right side of history. Our LGBTQ community consists of doctors, teachers, dentists, mechanics, business owners, and nonprofit and community leaders of all causes. They are also mothers, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons and daughters; all dedicated to raising wonderful productive human beings for our society. Our LGBTQ community is just as diverse as the general population. Go to the San Jose Pride festival and you will see the incredible diversity of our community.

Our society has evolved and will continue to evolve. The latest Washington Post poll has concluded that 58 percent of all Americans now support gay marriage. The time is now for peace. The time is now for justice. The time is now for progress. The time is now to legalize same-sex marriage. The time is now for us, and our nation’s highest court, to end discrimination.

Omar Torres lives in the Washington community in the greater downtown San Jose area. He works as executive director of the Santa Maria Urban Ministry.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for the wonderful article Omar. As you already know, I am a strong supporter of gay marriage. It is my belief that to deny one group the same right as others is discrimination. So keep up the good fight! Many of us support your efforts and will fight right along with you to see justice happen.

  2. Since the movement seems so willing to add extra letters to its abbreviated identity, might I suggest the addition of an “N” for narcissist? After all, the identity can’t be considered inclusive if it excludes the group’s most defining trait.

    Witnessing the development of the gay rights movement has been indeed educational, as I now understand that viewing homosexuals through the lens of sexual behavior and gender identity obscures the powerful self-centeredness that not only fuels the movement’s rise and enduring efforts, but explains the tiresome obsessions of those elected from its ranks to office. In short, the manner of their political movement has exposed them as being more different than commonly acknowledged. 

    What other group, I ask you:

    —would dare demand from society respect as a unique and equal group while at the same time holding massive parades featuring public nudity, simulated (and some not so simulated) sex acts, and grossly ostentatious, immature behavior? In short, “This is us, and objecting to it will soon be a hate crime.”

    —would, by way of a sexual appetite far beyond the bounds of sanity, recklessly fornicate themselves into a national health crisis and then blame bigotry and the government for it? Whereas reckless sexual behavior once conjured up visions of sailors on leave, what is now known is that reckless sexuality (unprotected and obsessive sex in bath houses, public restrooms, parks, highway rest stops) is a powerful factor in gay sexual behavior; one that has nothing to so with bigotry or government indifference, but everything to do with taking AIDS to epidemic status.

    —would, in seeking a privilege via a redefining the cultural lexicon, dare to drape a campaign in the robes of liberation while at the same time unfairly branding as bigots (and/or terrorizes) those holding the traditional views of their family, church, and nation? In a twist on original sin, as far as gay rights go, we are all the children of bigots.

    Unlike those movements hampered by their own intellectual limitations, members of the gay community represent the full spectrum of the cognitive scale, something evident from the legally cunning and publicly duplicitous manner in which it’s waged its campaign. This is a group that, in its quest to gain the benefits of legal status, has never hesitated in bending, perverting, or violating any law standing in its way. Like an undisciplined, impulsive child grabbing at a toy in the hands of another, the gay rights movement’s disrespect for the sanctity of the law has been obvious and annoying. And, just as would be expected of a child after successfully wrestling away a toy, you can count on the movement to insist the much coveted law be strictly respected once obtained.

    Don’t we still call those who engage in such behavior brats?

    • What about all those Lent related celebrations like Mardi Gras?  What about Spring Break celebrations in places like Florida and Palm Springs?

      I don’t go to gay pride parades, but I’m going to guess that the ones in San Francisco are a lot different from the ones in San Jose.  If you’re complaining about San Francisco, then complain about San Francisco.  I don’t think that allowing same sex marriages will result in the end of civilization as we know it in San Jose.  San Jose will still be San Jose, and San Francisco will still be San Francisco.

  3. Opinions may vary about the desirability of instituting same-sex marriage, but it is an absolute incontrovertible FACT that simply retaining the “traditional”/authentic definition of marriage is not in the least bit discriminatory.  There exists no “right” for homosexuals and their allies to fundamentally alter the definition of one of society’s oldest, most revered, and most basic institutions, merely because they don’t care for the way it is constituted.

  4. Good post Omar. Think of being an ally as work that you do and not as your identity. Being an ally is less about how you carry yourself (though, again, respect is very important) and more about what you contribute to the struggle, like you and the others mentioned in your post.

  5. Marriage is not an “institution” per se.  It is a human recognition of nature at the base level.  Before there were churches, governments, societies, before we even lived in caves there was a human recognition of nature.  It goes like this:

    XY+XX = evolution
    XY+XY = dead end of the species

    From that over eons humankind has recognized the necessity of the male/female dynamic.  It’s not about love or who you want to swap spit with it’s the core of our species.

    Marriage merely became a way of the centuries of recognizing that.

    I am all in favor of anyone having “equal rights” but how far do we want to expand those rights?  Father/daughter, brother/sister, etc.

    Same gender persons should have full rights as found in any societal/legal/domestic agreement.  Marriage is just one means of achieving that.

    Frankly I think homosexuals would be embarrassed to even want the “marriage” label.  They have struggled too long to be accepted as they are.  Why try to mask it with the facade of marriage?  One man wearing a dress at the alter isn’t going to fool anyone. It’s still two guys.  If they really had pride they would drop this nonsense, just say “this is who we are” and go on with their lives.

    “Gay” marriage can only open a can of worms that we will all resent. After all polygamy has been a cultural norm for centuries in many societies.  It still has the XY=XX natural element just adds some more XX XX XX to it. Certainly then there is a right to that.

    And please pick another tag besides “Gay” woman/woman have their L word – is “Gay” the best there is for man/man?  In older dictionaries it is a derogatory word for homosexual male and it sounds like a new toothpaste or something.  Try something more manly – too Doris Day sounding, almost apologetic.

    • I liked homosexuals a lot more when they were societal rebels who scoffed at things like marriage and military service.  If you’re going to be gay, and yet otherwise a totally conventional, socially conformist person, what’s the point?

  6. s randall,

    Please name the political movement, associated with either Spring Break or the Mardi Gras, that is trying to win the hearts and minds of America.

    That you missed my point is an understatement. The pride celebrations, their narcissistic nature aside, are made significant to the discussion by two things: one, they are enthusiastically embraced by the movement; two, they’ve successfully strong-armed numerous elected officials into approving public displays of debauchery. That such behavior is embraced by the movement—with nary an objection from moderates heard, is evidence of an agenda that goes far beyond that publicly stated (the winning of so-called “rights”), to one including a resentment-inspired desire to push even the most offensive components of their lifestyle right into the faces of heterosexual America. That such behavior is tolerated or even applauded by politicians just goes to show what blind ambition looks like in an empty, pathetic vessel.

    I found it laughable that you shared your opinion of gay marriage. Again, you don’t get it. It doesn’t matter whether you think it no threat to civilization, because it doesn’t matter what you think, or I think, or the majority of voters of this state think. The definition of marriage has been removed from the public’s reach. Activists, both in and out of office, have teamed up with the media to usurp from the public the right to define its own culture, and that should outrage everyone.

    From the start, marriage, along with other expressions of cultural values (the control of alcohol, the age of consent, the punishment for criminal acts, etc.) has been in the hands of state voters; the theory being that, given regional and traditional differences, the people knew best how to make the rules reflect their values. That is exactly why gay activists first targeted the state’s voters (directly and through their representatives) in seeking, first, civil unions (which they got and then used as evidence of unfairness) and, second, gay marriage, which the people voted down.

    And that’s when, like spoiled, self-centered children, they abandoned both the law and the people, and resorted to the unsightly, uncouth bath house politics that’s landed them at the Supreme Court.

    • I don’t think that pride celebrations are intended to be the side shows they’ve become.  As I said before, I think that has more to do with San Francisco than it has to do with pride celebrations in general.  For instance, take the Bay to Breakers.  Other cities have similar running races, like the Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz, and the old Mercury 10K here in San Jose.  Why is it that only the Bay to Breakers was and is a side show?

      As far as the other stuff, it was the case that a lot of immigrant populations were pretty unruly when most of the people were male laborers.  Drinking, gambling, houses of prostitution and the like were common vices in these populations.  Once the women started coming over, and people married and had families, things changed.  I understand that gay couples can’t have children, but I think marriage will nonetheless have a settling effect on people.

      Make no mistake, gays are discriminated against.  That’s why I have to make the usual disclaimer.  I’m not gay.  I do that because there is a stigma to being gay.  It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

      It has to change.