My husband and I recently invited a group of friends to attend our church. One couple hesitated because of concerns about how they would be received. Would there be stares, whispers or outright rejection? You see, our friends are a lesbian couple raising a young daughter.
I understand their hesitation and thought of the struggles that blacks have endured throughout history and my own experiences. Black History Month is a time when attention is given to the achievements of African-Americans, as well as the many trials that have been championed.
Historically, blacks have been the victims of many demoralizing acts. We’ve had to fight for our identity, equal public education, equal pay, voting rights, the right to worship as we chose, to marry whomever we chose, and the list goes on. Although victories have been won, there’s still a very long way to go.
Just 10 years after the ACLU won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia to overturn Virginia’s racist laws that made interracial marriage a criminal act, my mother met my stepfather who is white. Mildred and Richard Loving’s courage to fight for the right to love each other as husband and wife paved the way for my parents.
I remember the stares and whispers of people who didn’t approve of their love, but my parents did not let the negativity tear them apart. Instead, the disapproval bonded them closer to each other. My parents went everywhere together and although initial introductions to friends and family were tense, in the end it was all about their mutual love.
When we moved from the inner city to the suburbs, being a blended, mixed-race family was very different from those around us. As a preteen and the new kid on the block, I longed for acceptance. Our neighbors, instead, did not want their children to play with me or come to our house. My peers made fun of me. To this day, people are shocked when they find out that the man who raised me is white! I do not appear to be mixed race because of my dark complexion, so I am often asked, “Your mother married a white man?”
Today’s struggles within the LGBTQ community remind me of the race struggles of the past. Homosexuality is a new target for discrimination. It is still unfair for people who love each other not be allowed to just live, love and raise a family. It is hypocritical and I am amazed that my friends have to wonder if a church is “accepting of all people” when the basis of Christianity is love and acceptance. It is ridiculous for businesses to not allow Girl Scouts to sell cookies on their premises because of their policy accepting lesbian, gay and transgendered children. The mean-spiritedness and ignorance can make life miserable for those seen as different. This treatment is still demoralizing, today.
Everyone has the right to an opinion, but our constitution was written to protect the rights of all Americans. The bottom line is equal means equal for everyone. Today’s federal appeals court decision in the Prop. 8 case upholding same-sex marriage is a step in the right direction.
“A Loving Story,” a documentary about the Loving family and their Supreme Court case, will debut on HBO on February 14.
Photo: Grey Villet, [Richard Loving kissing wife Mildred as he arrives home from work, King and Queen County, Virginia], April 1965. © Estate of Grey Villet. From an exhibit of 20 photographs of the Loving family currently on display at the International Center of Photography in New York City (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) through May 6, 2012.
This blog is one of several personal testimonials written by ACLU staff members to commemorate Black History Month.