POSTED ON JANUARY 14, 2009:
Love Letters/Hate Mail
Why I March
After 52 years as a native Californian I recently moved. I loved California, its scenery, and its quirkiness. Being 52 though I knew that the majority of voters in California had voted against equal rights for blacks decades ago because that's what the scared majority wanted.
Still, I was proud of California because it was on the forefront in being open to ideas, innovations, a diversity of people, and was freer than most states. In grade school we ranked close to the top in education. We catapulted the economic boom of the U.S. after WWII with our aerospace/defense industries, agriculture, and superb universities. We tended to rely on science and facts to guide our policy making and less on religious fears, although we welcomed diverse religious freedom and freedom from religion.
I partook of many volunteer activities starting as a child, from planting seeds on a bikeway, raising funds for public television, walking/running to help alleviate poverty and diseases, volunteering for a suicide prevention hotline, to being an active Boy Scout.
While trying to be the "ideal" kid, there was a dark secret I guarded. I realized around 5th grade that I was gay. Even though I did not choose this anymore than anyone chooses to be straight I hid my secret well. Against this backdrop were religious extremists who while they meant well in their own minds were literally killing me with their proselytizing, saying that people like me would burn in hell and were inferior. I felt shame to such a degree that later I almost committed suicide by jumping off a dormitory in Davis.
Others kept saying, "If only homosexuals would settle down and not be promiscuous, and be more like us, we would give them respect and equal rights."
Later fundamentalists would say, "We support equal rights for homosexuals, but not "Special Privileges" for homosexuals", in their never-ending campaigns against gay equality.
Jumping ahead, we now have loving gay couples who are not promiscuous, who want to lead normal, supportive family lives, yet again the religious extremists have displayed their disingenuous words.
Our Constitution is traditionally there to support equal rights, not discard them. The Republican California Supreme Court ruled that granting marriage, a civil, not religious contract only to heterosexuals amounts to special privileges for heterosexuals in California.
Often I have heard conservatives say, "I think everyone should be treated equally and have equal opportunities and that's why I'm opposed to affirmative action." And we have all heard the line, "Same sex marriage threatens the sanctity of marriage!" If these people were truly authentic in that belief, their Proposition would have banned divorce, as NOTHING threatens the sanctity of marriage more than the big "D"!
I am sad that I was unable to vote against inequality. The California I knew in its day strived to welcome progress, compassion, and equality. The California I knew had Governor Reagan speak out strongly against the religious extremists who tried to ban gays as schoolteachers!
While I may have physically deserted California I pray that those of you there and in other states facing this civil rights issue will open your hearts and minds and help save the life of that little boy or girl out there who hear you say whether they are a worthwhile human being deserving what you take for granted, the right to love and marry. I support equal rights for all; not special privileges for heterosexuals. That is why I march.
Paul A. Harris
753 Ruslin Road
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
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