Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Marriage Equality Arc
Okay, for any of us who have had a breather, the game is back afoot. Marriage equality remains a key civil rights issue. Same-sex marriage will be fully realized, even in this very socially conservative nation.
There is no better moment than now to reflect again on the ideas of that old Transcendentalist, abolitionist, Underground Railroad leader, Unitarian reformer Rev. Theodore Parker. He engaged in many seminal struggles that would not find quick resolution, not in a ballot initiative nor in a court decision nor in some mystical and sudden enlightenment of the masses. Not even knowing that many of his causes would not resolve until after his death dissuaded him.
The frail minister died at 49 in 1860. He didn't even live to know the emancipation of the slaves here.
Parker is surely best known now for his inspirational long view. The well redacted version by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is what many of us know — The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
That carries the sentiment. Of course, as a liberal preacher, he could not have been quite as precise. His wordier original was, "Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long."
That illustrated as well his humility. Yet in this thought, he clearly was and is right.
I keep the idea in mind and it helps me from being discouraged at setbacks like the passage of Prop. 8 last month.
We saw it with gay-rights in Maine and SSM in Massachusetts. In both states (among other examples), conflicts continued for several years before the public joined the legislatures and courts in saying in effect, "What's the matter here?" The rest of the industrialized world has largely gotten beyond creating second-class citizenship for groups. Only here do we continue to debate such civil rights or pretend that voting on them is a matter of democracy.
On both coasts, with each vote, even by plebiscite when it came to that, the arc has bent more toward justice. If the California courts don't overturn Prop. 8, there surely will be another ballot question and almost as certainly, it will finally favor equality as it did in Maine when it came the third time.
We can look at those who would deny or strip rights from fellow citizens as misguided, nasty or cruel. Doing so may make us feel superior and wiser, but it does nothing to deliver those rights.
Instead, Parker's view is the clearest one. As he did his entire short life, we must work toward justice, knowing that we are helping our universe bend further where it is going.
Tags: massmarrier, Prop. 8, , California, same-sex marriage, civil rights, Theodore Parker