On Marriage Equality and Tragedy in Charleston

Karen Barr, Moderator of the GLAD Alliance Council, reflects on yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, the tragedy in Charleston, and the journey for justice still in front of us all.

It has been a week of overwhelming emotions. Yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality brought stability and legal recognition for countless LGBT families across our country. No special rights, just equal rights. In Justice Kennedy’s amazing conclusion:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

Yesterday was a time of joy, thanksgiving, relief, gratitude. The result of the hard work of many. It wasn’t that many years ago that marriage equality seemed like an impossible dream. Thanks be to GOD!

But this joy has not been the only emotion of the week. I spent Friday evening at a prayer walk for those murdered at Mother Emanuel. Nine lives lost in an act with a stated intent to deepen racial strife. Hate crime, domestic terrorism? Morally I think it qualifies as both, though others will determine if it meets the more stringent legal definitions.

The national debate over the Confederate flag has put a spotlight on the deep racial divide that still exists in our nation and the work we still need to do. Segregation is no longer the law of the land but we have much work still to do to achieve racial equality. Grief for the families of those taken so unjustly and also grief and anger that we have so much work left do. And if the truth be told, fear that we as a nation may decide that an admittedly difficult and much needed conversation about a flag is the end of the hard work we need to do. It is not. There is still much hard work to do.

It doesn’t stop there. I have worked on the GLAD General Assembly Pre-Assembly Event this week. To keep the work in front of us, at this event we have intentionally paired the export of homophobia – one of the worst parts of the backlash of progress of LGBT rights in this country – with marriage equality, which when we were planning we were hoping would be one of the great achievements of LGBT progress.

And, just to make sure I don’t forget about the work still to be done, The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report arrived this week. The cover article is about transgender women of color and hate crimes. LGBT persons are still the most victimized minority in the country, and transgender women of color face the worst persecution of all. The article also clearly and bluntly states that the religious right is fueling laws that target trans people.

Anger. More grief. More anger. There is so much work to do.

We need to find new ways to work together. The old ways of each group working on our own issues will not work to achieve the justice we seek.

It has been a week of deep emotions and deep prayer.

And hope.

Hope because I truly believe that the sight of so many couples and families making their story known will move hearts in a way nothing else can.

Hope because the pain and injustice of racism, which has always been right in front of us, is getting much needed attention.

Hope because our hope is in the Lord.

Hope because I know this work is much too much for us alone.

Hope because we are not alone.