Our View: Dream of a time without marches

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Published in the Tacoma Weekly Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Downtown Tacoma was awash last weekend with all things Gay Pride, including block parties and the flying of the signature rainbow flag atop City Hall. The annual event had a lot to celebrate with the passage of equality issues in a handful of states, including ours, and the recent repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It was also a perfect occasion for all Tacomans to feel pride as well in their city where there is room for everyone.

It appears that Pride events, and those forwarding the cause of other discriminated classes of people, will continue on until there comes a day when all people – gay or straight, dark-skinned or light-skinned or any-skinned – can be treated for their character and moral fiber rather than be judged by stereotypes.

But for a moment, let’s imagine a world where a woman is not barraged with insults for holding the hand of her uniformed wife as they quietly walk home to their children after a year apart courtesy of a military deployment. Or a man is not punched for kissing his husband while they share a picnic lunch in a city park. Imagine a time when all teens can walk home from getting tea and Skittles from a convenience store without being shot because someone is “suspicious.”

With each few steps of the march for a perfectly equal world, there will be stumbles. But the march continues. And it must. Even in the “enlightened West Coast” those viewed a certain way because of their sexual orientation, race or cultural affiliation routinely find themselves profiled by government officials and neighbors or are outright fired or discriminated against by bigots and their ilk. According to the national LGBT advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign, there are no laws in 29 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 33 states that do so based on gender identity.

While those on the religious right might see equality marches as contributing to the crumbling of society, and they are well within their rights to follow their hearts on such issues, maybe there will be a day when they accept that others in the world think otherwise. And that those views are just as valid as their own, particularly in a “religiously blind” legal system. The freedom to express one’s faith also requires the acknowledgement that others can do the same on equal footing.

Imagine a day when someone can love who they want to love, look as they wish to look, pray to a higher entity of their choosing – or not pray at all – without threat of violence or discrimination from their government and neighbors.

This full-equality future, however, is not likely to come very soon, truth be told. Humanity always creates “us” and “them” groups simply out of an effort to manage the complexities of life, and that is not always a bad thing. But it should be kept in mind that divisions such as those that define nations, states, counties, neighborhoods and cultures are not made up of “them” – they are made up of “us.” Every single person on this planet defines himself or herself in ways that are as varied as the people themselves, and thank goodness for that. Imagine how boring the world would be if this weren't the case. There would be no cultures to explore or issues to debate or people to find fascinating.

No, equality is not about everyone thinking or acting the same. Equality is about celebrating – if not at least respecting – the fact that people are different, and it is because of this that humanity will never fail to be a mysterious curiosity for everyone to explore and, hopefully, become better people from it.

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