Democrats Go First

The SCDP extends the arc of justice by embracing marriage equality.

| June 14, 2012

Memphis is an odd, wonderful town. This city, which has been so integral to the narrative of the civil rights movement, and in which I have made my home for years, still struggles in many ways to achieve the dreams of justice for all advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated here in 1968.           

On April 4th, the 44th anniversary of that event, vigils and remembrances were held around the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis, and there was a visible contingent from the LGBT community joining the crowd in paying homage to King and keeping alive the spirit of his famous words: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

When President Obama announced last month that his position on marriage equality had "evolved," it was a turning point here and nationwide on that arc. Though the civil rights movement and the movement for LGBT equality are not the same, they share common threads.   

As King's late wife Coretta Scott King said in 2003: "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people ... but I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

It was heartening this month that the Shelby County Democratic Party took a stand for justice for all people by following the president's lead and officially coming out in support of marriage equality. To our knowledge, this county party is the first in the South to take that step, which, considering Memphis' history, seems appropriate.

Tennessee is certainly no stranger to embarrassing itself in public when it comes to social and scientific issues.

Over the past year, Tennessee's legislature has considered bills banning the use of the word "gay" in schools; banning any sex-ed that discusses "gateway" activities to sex including, but not limited to, hand-holding, kissing, and, presumably, talking; making sure that anti-gay kids' right to bully is protected; and ensuring that the nonexistent "debate" over evolution be reopened in schools, in an attempt to send us back to the days before that awful science teacher John Thomas Scopes had the audacity to teach science in his classroom.

Indeed, activists around the state are exhausted from merely attempting to read the barrage of ignorant, hateful legislation introduced by Tennessee's finest wingnuts over the last year.

But amid all this, a new generation of voices is speaking, louder than ever, fighting for everyone's constitutional rights. Elizabeth Rincon, the young, vibrant director of fund-raising for the Shelby County Democratic Party, notes that, since President Obama's and the local party's announcements, "[they] have had an entire new generation of young, potential activists come to join the team. This movement shows the older generations that we are here and ready to effect change. That change is equality for all, and we are ready to work seven days a week to make that happen."

Some have dismissed Obama's support of marriage equality as a political calculation or a lame gesture. Of course it's a political calculation — that's the kind of calculation politicians make. The important part is that it's also the right thing to do.

Some might also consider the SCDP's platform change to be a mere gesture and say, "What does it matter that a local party is endorsing marriage equality?" It matters because gestures add up. When Barack Obama became the first sitting president to speak up for full marriage rights for gays and lesbians, his words paved the way for others who might have been sitting on the fence on the issue to go ahead and do the right thing as well. The more that people, politicians, and party chapters add their voices to the chorus demanding full equality for all people, the more full equality becomes the mainstream position.

Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support marriage equality, and that number will only grow in coming years. Though there will always be setbacks, like North Carolina's embarrassing vote to enshrine discrimination in its state constitution, the arc of this fight is indeed bending toward justice.

To Democratic Party chapters around the country, I say this: The time is right. Follow us and state loudly and clearly that you are the party of inclusion, where everyone is welcome. The tide of history demands it.

Evan Hurst is the director of social media for Truth Wins Out and a Memphis-based singer-songwriter. A version of this essay recently appeared on advocate.com.

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Mr. Hurst, as a director of an organization that appears to want the truth, it would be helpful if the truth were told about the sex education reform bill you mention. It does not implicate as a "gateway sexual activity" things like hand holding and kissing. The bill actually requires that "gateway sexual activities" involve the touching of the "intimate parts" of another's body, defined as the inner thigh, genitals, buttocks and breast" and then only if a reasonable person intended it for sexual gratification or arousal. This definition has been used for years in our law and comes from the definitions in the criminal law related to sexual offenses. To my knowledge, no one (other than the media) has ever interpreted those terms to include kissing and hand holding.

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Posted by PublicSquare on 06/14/2012 at 12:11 PM

There's another wingnut loose in the hallways!!!

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Posted by mad_merc on 06/14/2012 at 12:47 PM

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'dreams of justice for all' was not all-inclusive of behavior with race relation, which is a benign condition. This is a category fallacy. Hijacking the race issue with one focused upon voluntary behavior (DNA as a causal factor is very debatable and is a straw-man to transfer guilt. If DNA causes behavior, then we can't condemn murderers, thieves, rapists, etc.; after all, they are following their DNA-controlled behavior and there are no absolute moral laws in atheism). The claim of Dr. King's, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere', has nothing to do with allowing or sanctioning behavior in the civil realm. It is a cry for equal justice and equal rights based upon the natural order. Homosexuality is not natural and the same-sex couples cannot procreate and do not have interacting sexual machinery. Seeking the state to 'license' or sanction the homosexual relationship is no different than seeking a license from the state to sanction or justify a friendship. This writer calls the lack of legislation promoting homosexual marriage, evolution, etc. as 'hateful from wing-nuts over the last year.' How is it 'hateful'? To try and prevent the teaching of all points of view for examination in the statist, humanistic indoctrinated school system, is hateful. It is a fear of truth and acceptance of a potentiallly more coherent worldview that challenges the lifestyles of those denying a Creator or Designer who may have absolute moral laws in all areas of life contrary to their own. To mention the Constitutional rights of everyone in relation to homosexuality in this context is a moot point. The Constitution does not address marriage, it is a state matter or an individual's issue with his or her Church sanction. Everyone has Constitutional protection of life and property in the 14th Amendment. The mention of Obama's support of gay marriage and saying, '...that it's also the right thing to do..' begs the question. What standard determines what is 'right' or 'wrong' by this writer? To appeal to 'recent polls and majorities' that favor gay marriage is the fallacy of mob-rule or argumentum ad populum. Majorities or mobs do not determine truth. Calling the Democratic Party, the party of 'inclusion' is an illusion. It is inclusive, so long as no one proposes a contrary viewpoint to such Party. Winston Churchill and other political leaders of the past would have had choice words for Obama's "Gay Pride Month". In 1919, after Lenin had led the Soviets to slaughter the entire Russian royal family and then set up the Cheka (his version of the Gestapo) to hunt down all opponents of Marxism was shocking to Churchill. This led to Churchill's statement to Lloyd George, 'You might as well legalize sodomy as recognize the Bolsheviks.' He felt that sodomy was such an unquestionable evil that he felt confident in comparing it to something else he knew to be just as evil, so he conveyed his outrage. (Quoted by Martin Gilbert in R.S. Churchill and Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Vol. IV, p.225 London, 1966).

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Posted by CHG on 06/16/2012 at 4:38 PM

Dare I say, Charles is en fuego

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Posted by mad_merc on 06/16/2012 at 4:46 PM

mad_merc is in ad-hominem mode....as always has no sound rebuttal, just name-calling.

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Posted by CHG on 06/16/2012 at 4:57 PM

Sorry Charlie. You've been rebutted on this issue, as well as on your psychic interpretations of the Constitution and fake Founding Father quotes, more times than I care to count. You simply choose to ignore the facts and continue with your "I am the only truth in the world" diatribes. Most others have simply grown tired of your incessant rantings. They have realized that it matters not how many times you are proven wrong, you will never admit it. You simply fall back into your circular (lack of) logic. Quite honestly it's your arrogant with ignorance attitude that makes you such a fun (and easy) target for the rest of us.

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Posted by mad_merc on 06/16/2012 at 5:25 PM

Who wants Lortab?

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Posted by Phlo on 06/16/2012 at 7:01 PM

mad_merc,

sorry, that's not a rebuttal. Give a few examples without changing the thread here. Calling me 'arrogant' and 'ignorant' without evidence is mere name-calling again. Take your meds and relax dude.

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Posted by CHG on 06/17/2012 at 9:45 AM

Mad,

Show me where the writer on Chruchill was 'off-base' or non-factual please.

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Posted by CHG on 06/17/2012 at 9:47 AM

This is the very reason you should join in the school merger debates. You love to repeat the same thing over and over and over and over again, or as you also love to say, ad infinitum, without listening to what anyone else has to say. I, as well as many other commenters on these boards, have provided you with facts to refute the vast majority of your falsehoods. You've been caught passing along false quotes and claiming a far better understanding of the bible than even the most astute biblical scholars. When all else fails you return to your circular logic that only your chosen version of the christian god can imprint a sense of morality on humankind, therefore if it disagrees with your god it is not only wrong, but simply incapable of being, making your world view to be the only correct one.

If anyone cared they could easily go back through the various threads and find your lies, falsehoods, and just plain old bigotry on full display and at the same time see the numerous times you've been presented with facts to refute your claims. As for Mr Churchill's remarks, I'm denying he said what you claim, but I can easily see where your interpretation is flawed.

Which brings me to one last, very serious question Charles. Why? Why are you obsessed with this issue? Why are you worried about two people being allowed to be married; to enjoy the rights and privileges of other loving, caring couples? How does this hurt you? No one is asking you to "turn gay" (like you apparently think can happen since you claim it is simply a choice). How does this affect your home? Your marriage? How? Provide some solid proof for these questions, without any of your 'my God" hokey pokey, and enlighten the rest of us as to why this dangerous? or bad? or whatever you rate it as.

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Posted by mad_merc on 06/17/2012 at 11:42 AM

Who wants Monterey Purple?

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Posted by Phlo on 06/17/2012 at 12:15 PM

CHG, what is this natural order that you speak of? Haft you naught seen a National Geographic? M4M and F4F relationships amongst primates is prevalent in almost all genus. You would agree, I hope, that grandparents should be able to marry after the loss of their spouse? Do you not have the education to know that at that age they are not fertile in some cases? Do you suggest a fertility test for marriage? This old chestnut you spin, sounds very much like Alabama's stand on marriage between the races,("it's not natural" some guy would repeat before hanging a black man for dating his daughter). If that happened in your family tree, as it has happened in almost every family tree, and you are not able to get past that pain, seek therapy. If you think your opinion to whom I marry or don't marry matters, then you my friend should look at the totality of you life and wonder how you have come to such a place you detest yourself, so much, you must try and make others feel as detestable. Please look up sodomy. If you would deny the world oral copulation, then I strongly suggest you seek psychotherapy.
Lastly, I am currently serving and have served 15.9 years in defense of the constitution and the rights garunteed within. I'm exercising mine the same way you are yours(you're welcome), but if it is you're goal to deny rights protected under the constitution, my oath is to defend against all enimies foreign and domestic. You my friend sound like a domestic terrorist. I shall be reporting you to the NSA to see what other hate groups you subscribe to. Your brand of filth sounds exactly like the state of Iran requiring sex changes so that couples could be "Natural" and acceptable to Allah!

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Posted by fineline1975 on 06/18/2012 at 11:32 AM

Furthermore Charles, marriage is a state's right. Several states allow samesex marriage. Many states also allow underage marriage/with parental consent. Many states allowed mixed race marriage. Most all states, i assume allow a male, wounded soldier to marry a woman even if their 'interchangable parts" are missing/non working. Would YOU classify this as unnatural? Constitutionally, States must recognize other states' contracts. See Loving v. VA! Luckily, less bigots are being born everyday, so people of your ilk will become less of a burden to people who do not want to live as 3/5 citizens!

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Posted by fineline1975 on 06/18/2012 at 2:21 PM

I think you mean "categorical fallacy", CHG. It typically helps to know what you're talking about before going on long rants, lest you look like a wingnut.

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Posted by Count Dracula on 06/19/2012 at 1:02 PM

wow, fake "conservatives". you really can't cut taxpaying American citizens who happen to be a gay a break, can you?

you guys are winning the war on science. you're winning the war on public education. you're winning the war on vegetables. you're winning the war on public transit. you've won the war for unrestricted, corporately-backed political "speech."

so you're losing the war on gays. let this one go, guys.

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Posted by wvfii on 06/19/2012 at 1:28 PM
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