I recently watched Sean Penn in “Milk” again. The opening sequence shows footage from the time when gay bars were being raided by police for the simple reason that homosexuals were there. I remember living with this same fear when I first started going to gay bars. Worse yet, I lived with the fear that the bar would be bombed or burned. This sort of violence was still happening in Charlotte, N.C. when I was 18. I’m often struck by the progress we have made and how I can now be so in-your-face queer, that if you say something disparaging about my sexuality or that of anyone else, I will make sure you are held accountable for your hate.
I think about how the gay community has gone from being a group of fearful, marginalized people described as deviant, to being a major social, political and spiritual force. Through the ensuing decades since the time of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to office in California, we have taken our places proudly and openly in service of God, our country and our fellow citizens. The time when we accepted whatever scraps of tolerance fell from the tables of the straight world is a distant point on the timeline of equality that is not coming back.
For that reason, we have to talk about marriage equality in South Carolina once again. Actually, the time for talking is over. The time for acting has been handed to us on lovely, legal, silver platter. On July 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is important for us because this court also has jurisdiction over Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The ruling takes 98 pages to name all of the plaintiffs, defendants and supporters of both sides. Finally, it concludes what the previously mentioned document stated well more than 200 years ago: that all people are created equal. That’s self-evident. Right? One would think. But don’t order your wedding invitations yet.
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Enter stage right, the garden weasel. Only months before the mid-term elections, the Attorney General of South Carolina, Alan Wilson feels he has a brand new platform for an otherwise lackluster campaign. He is willing to victimize the LGBTQ community without hesitation for no other reason than to hold onto his office.
In our neighboring state of North Carolina, the former diligent defender of its ban on same-sex marriage has said that the time has come to accept equality. As N.C. Attorney General, Roy Cooper had defended the ban on same-sex marriage even though it was against his personal views. With this most recent ruling, Cooper decided to be on the right side of history by issuing the following statement: "Our attorneys have vigorously argued this case every step of the way. But the 4th Circuit has ruled and the 4th Circuit is clear. There are really no arguments left to be made."
You see, it’s not simply about our rights any longer. It’s about our state. Like it or not, this state is a multi-generational home for many of us. We are invested. This fight Wilson is vowing to undertake is going to impact the image of South Carolina. We have been on the wrong side of history more than once and we cannot allow a political opportunist like Wilson to use our constitutional rights as a giant stepping stone backwards.
A drawn-out court battle will end in exactly the same place as every similar battle before it and with the exact same result. It will waste numerous resources that could be better spent enhancing the image of our state or enforcing some law that actually protects people. The fight that Wilson is staging does neither. It only promotes fear and grabs convenient headlines.
There are options. I would ask Wilson to explore them but I know I would only make him and his kind happy if I held my breath and waited. So while we all continue to work for equality, we also have to remember to vote for the people who support it.
We are certainly closer than we have ever been to true equality in South Carolina. The Court of Appeals has handed down a decision that tells us in advance that there are no new arguments to be made. So why support a person on a quixotic quest who ultimately only promotes himself?
We do not elect people to have them legislate morality or to pander to a fearful minority who still seem to confuse the terms democracy and theocracy. We elect people to protect every citizen and to guarantee that philosophies such as separate-but-equal are only words that future generations study in a history class.
In 2014, the fear that previously existed is no longer a factor. We have the opportunity to place Wilson and his defense of such an antiquated idea exactly where they belong: as a footnote to the wrong side of history.
Out & About
Friday, Aug. 15 – Pulse Ultra Club will host Breonna Tenae's Friday Night Cabaret Featuring The Pulsation Divas. Show time is midnight, followed by a Dance Party With DJ Mackel. Pulse Ultra Club is at 2701 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. For additional info, go to www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.
Tuesday, Aug. 19 & Tuesday, Aug. 26 - Prime Timers of Myrtle Beach will host its monthly Social Get Together at 2 p.m. For the location of the game for each date and other details: http://www.primetimersww.com/primetimersmb.
Thursday, Aug. 21 – Takeover Florence, the Pee Dee area Happy Hour event will host an event at Grotto Fine Wine starting at 7 p.m. Grotto Fine Wine is at 1749 S Irby St., Florence. For additional information: www.facebook.com/TakeoverFlorence.