40th Anniversary of Stonewall
June 29th, 2009
Here at Stonewall, we stand in the shadow of giants who refused to accept their second class citizenship. They would be outcasts no more! Now with their voices echoing in our hearts, we have come to take our stand as well. In a 1965 interview, Dr. King made it clear that it is far past time to liberate African Americans from their second class citizenship. These are his words. I’ve edited them simply to call for the liberation of LGBT Americans as well.
“Why do straight people find it so difficult to understand that LGBT Americans are sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to them those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? We never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of straight society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with LGBT Americans for their freedom. This continued arrogant ladling out of pieces of the rights of citizenship has begun to generate a growing discontent in the LGBT community. What LGBT Americans want is absolute and unqualified freedom and equality here in this land of our birth. LGBT Americans no longer will be tolerant of anything less than our due right and heritage. We are pursuing only that which we know is honorably ours.
“Most straight Americans support the struggle to eradicate injustice; nevertheless they feel that LGBT Americans should be more patient, that only the passage of time – perhaps generations – will bring about the sweeping changes we demand…
“We say, with Dr. King, that the time is always right to do what is right…Increasingly we realize that time has been used destructively by people of ill will much more than it has been used constructively by those of good will…We wonder at straight Americans who dare to feel that they have some paternalistic right to set the timetable for the liberation of LGBT Americans. We are often inclined to think that our moderate “friends” are more of a stumbling block to the progress of LGBT Americans than Pat Robertson, James Dobson and other leaders of the Christian right.”
We have a growing concern that our new President is listening to those same “moderates” who counsel that it is too early to take on ENDA or DOMA or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These are difficult times, they whisper. LGBT Americans have waited this long. They are amazingly patient. They will understand if we ask them to wait a little longer.
We are here to say to our President and to members of the House and Senate that we do not understand. That we cannot “wait a little longer.” Our sisters and brothers have suffered injustice, intolerance and discrimination far too long: harassed, hunted down and hounded out of the military; denied employment and housing, refused the rights of marriage and ordination; left out of hate crime legislation all the while being primary victims of hate in all its vicious forms. We are second class citizens at best. Worse, we are outcasts in the nation we love and serve. (Page 353, Testament of Hope).
It is time to do what is right and including LGBT Americans in the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964 is right. We hope and pray that this time truth will prevail and justice will flow down like a mighty stream.
Mel White is founder of Soulforce.org and author of Stranger At The Gate: To Be Gay & Christian in America.