Be an Extremist for Love
From Human Rights Campaign
Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 3:10pm
“Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
On November 4, voters in California, Arizona, and Florida declared that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not equal under the law.
Our rights were stripped. Our love was branded unworthy of the name marriage, though our commitments and responsibilities to each other are worthy of nothing less.
We are angry – and that anger has moved to the streets.
This Saturday, thousands of people across the country, spontaneously organizing themselves in a truly grassroots movement, will convene to raise the call for equality. Click here to find a location near you: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=45356108205.
But as the LGBT community and its allies exercise our uniquely American right to protest, I hope we will remember that our actions in the streets will set the tone for the ongoing debate about marriage equality.
Will we reduce a human rights movement to tactics of recrimination? How we respond to these hateful amendments will say much about who we are.
Let the joyful faces of the couples receiving Connecticut marriage licenses for the first time yesterday remind us: our cause is love; and only through love can we win the freedom to marry.
Join with me and thousands of others – pledge to become an ‘extremist for love’ and fight to overturn these amendments: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/marriagepledge/
The Mormon and Roman Catholic Churches played a huge role in the travesty called Proposition 8, forcing me to question whether members of those communities have forgotten the lessons of their own struggles against persecution. It is chilling to realize that the Catholic and Mormon Churches knew they were telling lies – that marriage equality would require children to learn about homosexuality in school, that priests would be required to solemnize marriages of same-sex couples – and they lied anyway.
In the wake of commanding support for Prop. 8 among African Americans, we are also asking ourselves why the community that has endured the most violent and persistent discrimination in our country’s history failed to understand our struggle for human rights. In this campaign we reached out to diverse communities, but we obviously failed to communicate to African Americans the interdependence of our struggles.
Have we heard the concerns of the people we asked to listen to us? We assert that marriage rights are basic human rights; we must also show that our concern for human rights does not end with marriage.
As we ask communities of color and religious communities to engage and partner with us, we must, in turn, demonstrate our commitment to the people and issues they care about. We must show that we will not turn away from the forty-seven million uninsured once we have domestic partner benefits, and that non-discrimination laws are not complete justice when legions of children are denied equal opportunity due to failing schools, violence, and racism.
Today, I recommit myself to being an extremist for love. I will engage my friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers – no matter what their religious beliefs or cultural backgrounds – and will ask them to engage me in their lives. I am ready to listen and act on their behalf, even as I make my case for their support.
At the same time, I will speed HRC’s public efforts to overturn these laws:
* Our Religion and Faith program is organizing a wave of dialogues with churches;
* We support the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8;
* We are working to pass hate crimes, workplace equality, and other laws that will help more LGBT people to come out, since openness is the key to changing hearts and minds;
* And HRC will support all future measures to overturn these hateful amendments.
I ask you to join me today in promising to keep your anger and passion alive, and to turn them to the tasks that will broaden support for our cause.
Take the pledge to work for justice – and understanding – until equality is the law of the land: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/marriagepledge/
November 4 was neither the beginning nor the end of our struggle. It showed us how much work is left to do, but it also brought out the passion we will need to do that work.
That passion will win in the end. We must hold on to it, and use it wisely.
President, Human Rights Campaign