BY ELROY JOHN
“God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” the pastor barked. The small, mostly black congregation surrounding me erupted in laughter. I chuckled along with them. I was only about ten or eleven at the time, but even then it was a familiar theme. I was reared under the tutelage of a devout Christian mother and spent much of my youth visiting churches all over Florida. The message that homosexuality was a sin was one that was uniformly delivered with a heaping of fire and brimstone. I reflect on those foreboding sermons now as we collectively await the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, as it is often referred, lingers as one of the final vestiges of codified inequality that our country openly tolerates and serves as glaring evidence of our failure to truly heed the lessons of the civil rights era. The high court should repeal this law and in so doing remind us that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
When I left my mother’s home to join the Army, I carried the lessons she had taught me and her view of the world which had been shaped, primarily, by her faith. Those principles were constantly tested and many were fortified in the challenges presented by military life, but I increasingly found myself unable to reconcile some with the realities of the world. How could a loving God, possessed of the capacity to forgive any transgression, reject his own creations simply for being who they are? Years removed from that time, I now know that that paradox cannot be resolved to any satisfying degree. I also know that in regards to public policy, it does not need to be. Our laws may be developed in the midst of a collision of varying belief systems, but they should not be rooted in religious ideology.
DOMA reinforces the ecclesiastical notion that same-sex unions are unnatural despite evidence that homosexuality has existed in the natural world for as long as humans have (see anything related to ancient Greece, Rome, etc.). It denies gay and lesbian couples the legal rights that traditionally accompany marriage which has implications in a host of other matters including healthcare, immigration, probate, etc. Most egregiously, it reinstitutes in our country a discriminatory separation in classes of citizenship.
Some issues cannot and should not be decided by the ballot. Emancipation wasn’t. School integration wasn’t. Neither should this very real and pivotal human rights issue. The justices should make the only decision that lives up to our country’s promise: Liberty for all.
Elroy John was president of the Broward Young Democrats from Feb. 2009 to Nov. 2010. A U. S. Army veteran and Florida Atlantic University graduate, Elroy currently works for a non-profit organization that finds housing for homeless veterans.