A Land of Liberty and Justice for All?

By Ryan L. Sievers
January 1996

America is faced with many issues in both the political and social arenas. Each has its own societal importance and each takes time to be resolved and reconciled. However, the issue of gay civil rights is an issue that requires immediate attention. The contemporary struggle for gays to acquire basic civil rights parallels yesterday's turmoil to establish civil rights for African-Americans. In the time that it will take to debate and argue the issue, gays and lesbians across America are suffering unjust and sometimes inhumane treatment. This issue deals with the lives and well-being of humans and therefore deserves direct attention.

It is clearly time for our society to relinquish its phobia, prejudice and hatred of homosexuality and to work to improve life for all Americans. The civil rights movement for African-Americans should have paved the way for all people in our society to be accepted justly. It is our responsibility as members of a vast culturally and socially diverse society to remain open-minded and understanding of those who share this country with us. Civil rights must be established in our laws for gays, lesbians and all other humans in our shared world.

Individual people short of the ability to think objectively and fairly are unfortunately the same people who seem to have the most success in spreading their doctrines of incompetent beliefs and prejudices. It is immoral for people to simply accept a belief because it was presented to them loudly and boldly. It is easy for people to mistake the noise of opposition for support in numbers. There is loud, biased, and unfounded opposition to the establishment of civil rights for homosexuals. A few right-wing conservatives, such as Bill Horn of Des Moines, are leading a loud and powerfully hateful campaign against civil rights for homosexuals. The organizers of the campaign are indeed noisy and persuasive speakers. Again, sometimes speaking talent can be mistaken for knowledge or intelligence. That assumption can be far from the truth. Many times it is simply the speaker's personal phobias, prejudices and hatreds that his or her platform is based on. The platform may not at all be representative of the truth or an unbiased opinion. Instead it may be founded on personal feelings with no real social or political validation of support.

Candace Gingrich is a lesbian and Human Rights Campaign spokesperson. Recently she visited Iowa State University and spoke to students, faculty, staff and community members. In her speech she said, "We have the power to vote. The people of Washington need to hear from you." Gingrich is in support of Americans taking control of their own decision making and not being blindly influenced by those who are loud and aggressive. It is each person's own responsibility to be objective and reasonable when forming an opinion on an issue that will invariably affect those with whom we share this country, society, and world.

Jonathon Wilson is an attorney and former Des Moines school board member. At the National Coming Out Week opening ceremonies at Iowa State Wilson said, "The only way to freedom is to recognize all people." To be a society of true liberty, freedom, and justice for all we must show understanding and tolerance for all of those who are part of our society. Civil rights for only a select few that fall into certain categories proves our constitution to be merely a theory and not a working and active doctrine by which we live.

In the United States of America only nine states have laws that legally protect homosexuals with a few basic civil rights. In the other 41 states (including Iowa) it is legal for homosexuals, or people suspected of being homosexual, to be discriminated against in the workplace, hospitals, schools, courts of law, housing, and nearly every other aspect of social and private life. A small percentage of American companies and corporations have policies that honor and respect their homosexual employees. One such company is the Walt Disney Corporation.

Disney introduced a company policy that provides health insurance to the partners of its gay and lesbian employees. Disney came under heavy criticism for following through with their policy. The opposition was the initiative of 15 homophobic and close-minded lawmakers. The lawmakers sent a letter to the CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, and established their reasoning for opposition ineffectively on AIDS statistics. Disney however has stood strongly behind its policy and has no intentions of backing down.

Unbiased, objective, and fair reasoning is what is necessary for our society to establish a stance on the issue of civil rights for homosexuals, and to prove our constitution is a working and active doctrine and not just a theory. It is with open minds and the basic ability to judge fairly that we can truly make our country a place of liberty and justice for all.

The truth behind the issue of civil rights for homosexuals is that homosexual Americans are Americans and human. They share our country, society, culture, and government. The truth is currently being smothered by the noise of right-wing conservative opposition. It is our responsibility to filter out that which is negatively preached to us and work to reach an understanding of all people in our society. We must become socially responsible by relinquishing our phobias, hatreds, and prejudices.

Ryan L. Sievers, 18, is a freshman at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. This column was originally published in the ISU Daily. Reprinted with the author's permission. Sievers can be reached online at ryguy@iastate.edu.
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