Today marks the 233rd anniversary of the United States of America declaring its independence from Great Britain. I hope today finds each of you well and happy and able to celebrate in the way you see fit. I read the Declaration of Independence this morning, as I do each Fourth of July, and I marvel at its elegant straightforwardness, listing our grievances and declaring our sovereignty over ourselves. I always, however, cringe at certain things in it. The use of the words “man” and “mankind” throughout linguistically excludes the female population. The reference to Native peoples as “merciless Indian Savages” is also cringeworthy. We know these are not “just words,” as some would protest. Our history, while so positive in so many ways, shows that we actively visited upon women and Native Americans (among others) many of the very offenses we were declaring intolerable by Britain in this historic document.
This is not to ‘America-bash,’ as some might argue. These are simple facts that need to be squarely (if painfully) faced time and again for us to continue to mature into that “more perfect union.” Those words, along with those in our Constitution that characterize people of African descent as “three fifths” human, need to be faced for many reasons. One reason related to our organization, S.A.F.E., is that they remind us that things change. At one point in this country, people considered women biologically disinterested and too driven by emotion to be responsible voters, much less property or (gasp) office holders. At one point, the subjugation of people of color was thought to have been warranted, even commanded, by Scripture. While there is still much work to be done on both of those (and many other) fronts, our concerns focus on the un-equal treatment of our LGBT family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens. As a people, we have seen fit to grow past the thinking of our Founders’ times, and, however imperfectly and slowly, have rejected those words—“man,” “mankind,” “Savages,” and “three fifths of all other persons.” This proud history of growth informs us that we are a dynamic nation, willing to recognize our imperfections and thus change, even when that change means acknowledging the faulty thinking of our iconic Founders.
As such, on this Fourth of July, I recommit myself to convincing as many people as possible that the conventional thinking related to what makes a family, what makes a marriage, what makes a man or a woman needs to be rejected. Just as this country has rejected slavery, prohibition of women’s rights, discrimination in many forms, we need now to end discrimination of our LGBT population. A healthy family can be comprised of a mother, father, and children, sure. An equally healthy family, however, can also be comprised of a single father and his daughter, two lesbians and their daughter and son, a transgendered person and her partner, two gay men and their three kids, a bi-sexual woman with her male partner and their blended family of five children, or even two straight people with no children—only two cats and two pugs!
Many historians characterize America as an amazing yet immature civilization, not as criticism, but as mere fact. We haven’t been around that long in comparison to many other nations. As such, some have theorized that while we are mature far beyond our years in many ways, we are in our adolescence in a number of areas. I believe this country is beginning now to grow up some when it comes to recognizing that lesbian and gay and bi-sexual and transgendered people are a perfectly natural part of the tapestry comprising America (and the world). They are an extremely vital, indispensable part of our nation. In fact, “they” are us. We are all human beings seeking survival—maybe a little comfort, maybe a bit of happiness.
So, as you celebrate with your friends and family today, I hope you and yours are well and happy. I hope you are surrounded by people who make you feel safe and loved and valued. I hope, too, that we all remember that as citizens of this union, we are obligated to contribute to its further maturation toward the equal treatment of all of its diverse citizenry. I further hope we remember that millions of our fellow citizens today do not feel safe, loved, or valued because their nation has declared them second-class citizens, unworthy of participating in marriage—unworthy of defending this great nation that they love and to which they contribute so greatly. As a member of S.A.F.E., you are helping our country grow up some more. You are helping your fellow citizens of all sexual orientations to feel more safe, more loved, and more valued than they felt before you stepped up to speak out. My most sincere thanks to you for your help in this cause. Happy Fourth of July.
Jerry Thurston, President
Straight Advocates For Equality