Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What Would Ben Franklin Do?

As we celebrate the 230th birthday of America, it is important for all of us to remember the liberty and freedom that America represents. Yes, I am aware of the current administration's challenge to those freedoms as they "fight terrorism." And yes, I am aware of conservative and religious leaders trying to force all of us to worship the way that they do and follow the laws and rules that their god demands even if it violates our human rights and dignities. In spite of all of those things, we still live in a country that is based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How can you not love that?

I always have had bittersweet feelings about the 4th of July holiday. Think about it. This is a country that brags about freedom and liberty yet was founded by slave owners. Frederick Douglass wrote some 170 years ago about his feelings surrounding the day. It is hard for an oppressed people to celebrate freedom in a place where they are not free.

As a gay black American in the 21st century I am still not free. I can not marry. And I am publicly shamed by some for having the audacity to even proclaim my affections for my partner Steve, whom I love dearly. Even amongst straight allies I am often seen as "less than" because of what I do in the bedroom. And now that I ask for the same civil rights as my heterosexual counterparts, I am attacked, maligned, and used as a political pawn to divide the nation.

A group, calling themselves the Illinois Family Institute, recently tried to take away my liberties. They put together a petition to get an anti-gay marriage referendum on the Illinois ballot this November. I am happy to say that they failed. They got the required amount of signatures but many were bogus or duplicates. A charge that IFI denies but I can sure you it is all true. Take a look at an email that I received just today from Equality Illinois.

This news release will be made public on Wednesday July 5th, 2006.

The Illinois State Board of Elections has informed us of the result of the
random sample verification of signatures on the antigay marriage petition proposed for the November ballot.

After careful examination of the random sample of signatures, the board has concluded that there are not enough valid signatures and the petition is "presumed invalid"!

The antigay proponents of the petition will file an appeal to this ruling.

We checked every signature. We know there are not enough valid signatures. And, we know where every invalid signature is!

When we began this project it seemed almost impossible to verify the validity of 350,000 signatures in the short time that we had before the challenge deadline.

But, we were able to check every signature because of the hard work of so many volunteers and because so many community organizations came together for this common effort. This task could not have been accomplished without the hard work of countless volunteers around the state. It is inspiring to see so many individuals and organizations stand up together for fairness and equality.

So this year I celebrate America and the defeat of real evil which is those that oppose the last line of our pledge of allegiance that says "liberty and justice for all."

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