Category Archives: DOMA

POV: Once You See the Emperor Has No Clothes, Things Can Get Better

by Michelle E. Brown

Originally published on, February 27, 2011.

As a female, African American, lesbian I could probably tell you stories of discrimination, bigotry and various attempts to stifle my greatness, until times get better.  Some days I have a feeling I’ll be talking for a very long time.

It’s not just the acrimonious tenor of the body politic. Each day I am astounded by folks who should know better, doing something that is so totally screwed up – defying logic and common sense without any regard for social justice.

Like when I heard about the Grammy’s awarding Buju Banton – who is notorious for his lyrics inciting violence against gays – with the Reggae Album of the Year award; or when Justin Bieber – heartthrob of many young girls – made anti-choice statements opposing abortion even in the case of rape; and let’s not forget Republican Congressmen Christopher Lee – who campaigned as a crusader for morality – who sent photos of himself to a woman in the “Women Seeking Men” forum on Craigslist from his cell phone.

I have a feeling I’ll be talking for a very long time about my rights to earn equal pay for equal work, to have dominion over my reproductive rights, to be judged by the content of my character and not the color of my skin, gender or sexual orientation/gender expression and to enjoy all the glorious facets of love including matrimonial bliss with my partner  “until death do us part.”

Like the song goes: “It’s been a long time coming but I know a change is gonna come.”  And it is.

First there was the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2009, expanding the 1969 United States Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Then came the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, ending the 17-year policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Now, in 2011, DOMA’s going down – completing our first equality trifecta.

DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was like the “Emperor Who Had No Clothes.”   Lawmakers have no business meddling in marriage and DOMA was as unconstitutional as Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute (the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 overturned by Loving vs. Virginia).

But DOMA rode in on the winds of religious self-righteousness and far right conservatism that was so great that, rather than doing the right thing, lawmakers led the morality charge with this act defining marriage for federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman.

It still amazes me that the prospect of me marrying my girlfriend or any other gay couple’s marriage could cause such hysteria – but it did and continues to do so.

While divorce statistics soar and married heterosexuals behaving badly make headlines, gays and lesbians in states, cities, and countries around the world are getting married and getting on with their lives without incident.  But still the specter of DOMA remained part of the law of the land and the Department of Justice was poised to defend it.

Okay, help me with this – we elected a president who can talk about LGBT issues without stammering, opposes DOMA, and appoints an Attorney General who is ready to defend DOMA.  What is wrong with this picture?

Is our government so schizophrenic that it must march blindly forward even when all signs point in another direction? It certainly didn’t require too great a leap to see that DOMA violated both the “Due Process Clause” and the “Equal Protection Clause” of the 14th Amendment just like in Loving v. Virginia. Did Attorney General Holden skip that day in law school or what?

But at long last the call went out that the LGBT community has been long awaiting.

President Obama finally said what we have known all along – “the DOMA Emperor” has no constitutional clothes.  With that the Justice Department said it would cease legal defense of DOMA.

It would be great if we could say this was strike three and homophobia was out of the game once and for all, but we know that is not the case.

For every victory we get for marriage equality there are still those who will put their time, money, and political influence behind stripping us of our rights.

Old ways die hard. Hatred, racism, bigotry, and homophobia still attack us in communities, on the job, even in the schoolyard, which is why we have to keep pushing for a fully-inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), anti-bullying legislation, and continued recognition and protections for our families.

But while we are fighting for our rights let’s also remember that LGBTQIA doesn’t spell separate or special. It spells community. It spells neighbor. It spells American.

While we fight for our rights let’s not forget that healthcare, education, women’s reproductive rights, poverty, jobs, and peace are our issues too – so show up and speak up.

Like the song goes: “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.” It will get better. Until then, I’ll keep talking about it.

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