Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some thoughts ...

... on marriage equality in particular and social justice in general.

Like many New Yorkers, I am proud and happy that the state of my birth voted last night to recognize marriage equality. This is an amazing, historic moment and, for once, the New York State legislature should be proud of itself. The reactionary forces of hatred and oppression lost last night -- and thank God for that. For once, progress for humanity was made and we need to celebrate it since it's an all too rare occurrence. 

NYC has always been the biggest and greatest city in America -- and last night it got even greater.

But I wouldn't be a true-blue New Yorker if I didn't get a little neurotic about this. The argument that I always made for marriage-equality was that it was about basic fairness: why should loving, consenting adult gay couples be denied the same rights as loving, consenting straight couples? There was no legal argument against this -- just one based in religious or political ideology or plain ol' bigotry. The issue of recognizing basic human fairness underlined this struggle as it has underlined all the great civil rights struggles in American history.

Yet here's the rub: this marriage equality victory is happening at the same time that union and middle-class workers are under siege both in New York and around the country. It's happening at a time where they are losing raises, pensions, and collective bargaining rights. Where their jobs are dissapearing and their wages are buying less. Where they -- the victims of our current economic doldrms -- are being scapegoated by politicians and the media and special interests for somehow being the cause of it. And where the richest people aren't being asked to pay even a penny more in taxes (even getting their taxes cut) or make any sacrifices whatsoever. 

Many of the same people who support marriage equality and are socially progressive also support  hurting the middle class and are economically regressive. I was recently reading the New York Observer where the editorial pages were strongly supporting gay marriage while also bashing unions and the working class while also ranting about how taxes must never go up on the rich.  

And why is this the case? Because many of the same people who support marriage equality and are rich know gay people -- and it's hard to hate people you know. But many of these same people don't know union or working class people so hating them and blaming them is easy. When you or your friends are the subject of an injustice, fighting it is easy. Yet when you don't know the victims, who cares? 

Equality should be about full respect for all human dignity, and this includes the right to marry and the right to earn a respectable living that can feed yourself and your family -- and also the right not to be scapegoated (i.e. gays are a threat to marriage, unions and poor people destroyed the economy). 

In New York, the war on homosexuals may have ended but the war on the middle-class rages on. And it's a war that all those who truly care about social justice need to fight.

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