Sometimes you have to look back at history to see where you are presently. When the United States came to being back in 1776, “All men are created equal” seemed a great promise, yet that statement has caused some of the more ugly periods in our history.
In 1776, blacks were not considered a part of the race of man. Women were not considered to have the same rights as men either. Slavery existed in some form in all 13 of the original states.
85 years after the birth of the United States, only about half of the states had outlawed slavery. This led to a civil war in our country with race as one of the primary factors involved.After that blemish in our history, African-Americans were freed, but given little else. This period gave rise to open bigotry and discrimination, hateful organizations like the KKK, institutions like “separate but equal” which were anything but equality.
There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable in some areas of our country for a group of folks to round up someone they didn’t like, beat them or even lynch them with little chance of them being prosecuted.
Another stretch of time similar to the one between our country’s birth and it civil war, led to the civil rights movement. A woman named Rosa Parks was the match that lit the fire that was Martin Luther King Jr. The death of King Jr. led to the Civil Rights Bill of the late 60’s.
Today, almost 40 years since the signing of that bill, there is still bigotry and hatred against the African-American community, although this is mostly in a non-violent form. The point is that change does happen, though it is very slow with many bumps on that path of change.
The LGBT fight for equal rights is similar in some ways. While LGBT people were never slaves, it wasn’t really until the 1950’s that their closet doors were first opened and gay folks started stepping out in real numbers.
In 1969, the Stonewall Riots became the LGBT Civil War. Those riots sparked the creation of the Gay Liberation Front. Soon similar organizations sprung up across the country and around the world. A year later, the GLF organized a march from Greenwich Village to Central Park in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. Many Gay Pride Celebrations today choose the last Sunday in June for their celebrations in honor of Stonewall.
All in all, there are similarities between the African-American and LGBT fights for equality. But there are differences as well. The fight for racial equality is still going on 230 years after the birth of the United States while the LGBT quest for equality truly began just a half century ago when LGBT folks bravely stepped out of their closets.
The real differences at this point is the any LGBT match similar to Rosa Parks has not been followed up upon by a leader and visionary like Martin Luther King Jr. While Rosa did her personal objection to the inequality she faced, it was the firebrand leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. that took such a small event and brought it world wide attention.
The LGBT community has many great organizations that take on the inequality of their existence, but there has yet to have been a great figure of importance and vision to be the living symbol of not only the inequalities the LGBT community faces, but of the true potential of what LGBT equality fully means.
Martin Luther King Jr. was important to the African-American Civil Rights struggle not only because he was a great leader, but because he could bring in large numbers of non African-Americans to his cause.
That is truly what is needed in the LGBT fight for equality. Large numbers of non-LGBT folks who are willing to do more than send a few dollars to the HRC. Straight folks willing to stand up against folks like Fred Phelps, and organizations like the AFA. Straight folks willing to walk with their gay family members during Pride. Straight folks willing to add their voice to the LGBT lobbying force. Straight folks willing to do what is right.