Notable Signs of Changing Times This June

Notable Signs of Changing Times This June

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I was born in June.  Summer officially begins, graduations occur, and Father’s Day is in June.  Throughout my life, these things have made me a happy man during this special month.  Yet this week the Supreme Court is making historic rulings on two fundamental social institutions: voting and marriage.  As an African American member of the LGBT community, my outlook on this favored month will most likely change due to the Court’s decisions.

These rulings on the “Voting Rights Act of 1965,” “the Defense of Marriage Act,” and “Prop 8” are epic.  Moreover, these decisions will possibly reshape the legality of constitutional equality for decades to come for Americans who have been marginalized by race and/or sexual orientation.  Pondering the possible outcomes has left me with a roller coaster of emotions, particularly the Court’s ruling on voting rights.

There are people with varying political and religious positions on all sides of these cases.  No matter the verdicts there will inevitably be people who are thrilled while others are left feeling dismayed.  I find myself facing the outcomes with unusually hushed breath. 

Despite the advances in civil rights in the African American and LGBT communities, acceptance cannot be legislated.  Yes things are changing, but frankly acts of hatred toward those who are not of the dominant culture continue to rise across the country.  Sadly, we do not live in a post-racial America despite those who want to assert such an opinion.  Nor, do we live in a society where most people accept that it’s not a choice to be a same gender loving individual.

Legal equality should necessitate that homosexuals be treated the same as heterosexuals in having the right to marry.  Currently only twelve states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage although more are taking up the fight.  No matter who they are, all Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law.  Having a state or federal government rule against one’s own racial or gender identity feels punitive, abusive, and contrary to the 14th Amendment.

I grew up hearing stories from family members who lived in the South where attempting to vote often meant being turned away or asked to pay poll taxes.  I believe that Tuesday’s verdict amending Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and requiring input from an overly politicized and inefficient Congress is dangerous.  Our democracy should function to benefit us all, and the damage of the Court’s gutting voting rights will be incalculable.  The role of government ought to include instituting policies which make it less difficult to pursue the American Dream.  Tuesday’s judgment has left me deeply disappointed.

 My concern is for minority communities for whom justice feels as fleeting as chasing a dollar bill down a road on a windy day.  In the coming days, organizations such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force among many others will work to strategize a path forward.  We must not allow the constitutional rights of any citizen to be eroded, or worse dissolved.  There are notable signs of changing times this June.  Only time will reveal what is lurking beyond the horizon.

 The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States.  Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation.  UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.

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Bentley de Bardelaben
Executive for Administration and Communications Justice & Witness Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115