Equality is such a popular word these days. Everyone would like to be treated equally. An expression that I assume means, that every single person in a society should share the same legal entitlements or ‘rights’ as we call them. Yet, somewhere between our boisterous rallies and revolutions, I think we became so entangled in this fantasy of pure ‘equality’, that we did not realize just exactly what we were saying or doing. Perhaps it was the scent of freedom seducing the nose of the enslaved or the taste of sovereignty on the tongue of the colonized that reduced the working of the brain. The animal instinct to kill and destroy the oppression of the past was too strong and now that the dust has settled and constitutions have been drafted; we have only now come to realise just exactly what equality really means. It means that we ALL- fat, short, religious, atheist, black, non-black- are the same.
‘Duh!’ you might say and maybe you’ll even add a ‘psssh’ for extra effect. Yes, I know, save the attitude but I still stand by what I said. I really do not think we understood how equal our what equal was until the state of Massachusetts made it legal for gay couples to get married. Now let’s face it, this is the Caribbean and we’re not known for our welcoming chorus to homosexual unions. Just ask any of the Caribbean men and women seeking asylum in Canada, based on their sexuality. Hence, I really doubt that we were jumping for pure joy on the announcement of this new phenomenon. I will also be honest and say that despite my many viewings of ‘Will and Grace’ and the ‘Modern Family’, the sight of same sex couples tying the knot was well…strange. I would really love to sing the chorus of equality but the truth remains, that I have always considered marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In addition, growing up in a society that praises über-masculinity and frowns upon effeminacy, has greatly influenced my opinion. So I really had to sit and reflect on this one.
Obviously there’s the big R…Religion. Anyone who knows remotely anything about Christianity, knows that homosexuality is not tolerated and well, we don’t have a plethora of Catholic holidays for nothing. Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies down with a male as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing”; this is just one of the many verses stating quite plainly the bible’s viewpoint on homosexuality is NO! So what do you get when you combine an act completely shunned by religion with an institution which originated from religion? We get one of the biggest debates to ever hit mankind. With thousands of people lining the opposite sides of the White House- one armed with placards of scriptures and the other screaming for equality. This I consider as a great SLAP in the face of religion. However, before we sharpen our pitchforks or flip the pages of our bibles, let’s go back to the word of the day…equality. You see, I believe that initially when we conceived the theories of rights and freedom, or as the French so cunningly coined it ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, we were not actually considering to make everybody equal.
In fact our ideas of equality included those who we considered to be equal to us. So for example, the emancipation act of 1834 might have ‘un-slaved’ the blacks of the British colonies but it did not pass the rights of the white man onto the black man. The same can be said for the American Revolution of 1776 which gave birth to the declaration of the rights of man, which said ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’. Unless you were a Native American man, African-American man and whatever other man which did not reflect the expected qualities of ‘man’. So are we guilty of doing to homosexuals what was done to our ancestors so long ago? Does our idea of equality not extend to people such as homosexuals who in some eyes are living ‘abominations’?
The truth is this: if we accept in totality the idea of equality written in our constitutions, then gays can be married. Remember that at some point in time, religion and politics were fused. So the marriage of the bible became a contract of the law. Along with this lawful contract came the rights which aided both parties involved in the matrimony. Hence, if gays who are people and thereby are equal to any of us; then they too should be afforded the opportunity to gain the rights given by marriage. Legally, this is my explanation but over all I’m not completely convinced. So I find myself somewhere in the middle. Hoping that my lack of passion to jump in wholeheartedly to either side is not mainly from plain cowardice- afraid to be penalized by people from either side. Nor do I want to be seen as a bandwagon-ist who leans to the gay pride side, simply because it is the craze of the day. Furthermore, neither do I want to discriminate against homosexuals, just because of their sexuality. Of all the crimes that have occurred on earth because of prejudices, surely, I do not want to be a participant in discrimination.
Which brings to focus yet another point. Many of us go to the bible to justify our hate for same sex unions yet revel in other sins. The bible warns against all forms of sexual immorality, which include homosexuality, bestiality, fornication and masturbation. We do not admonish or ostracise those who partake in the others, so why the special hatred towards gays? A pertinent question to ask ourselves is, ‘Am I against gay marriage because the bible does not condone it? Or am I using the bible to justify my own prejudices?’ We have separated the Church and state and we lead our societies by man-made institutions and not by the Bible. So why is it that now we are facing the results of our actions, we remember Leviticus? Homosexuals buy homes and raise children as couples but now that they claim the equality we supposedly give, we recollect that the Bible does not excuse homosexuality. In essence, mankind does what mankind wants and then turns to Bible afterwards.
When it comes to our Caribbean societies, we have definitely come a long way but there is still more work to be done. Before we even begin that discussion, we must eradicate the hate that exists in us. We need to stop using gay slurs and committing violence crimes against homosexuals. I see no reason for any of our people to flee from their homes because they fear that their lives will be taken away from them. It is wrong and certainly not Christian-like. I have never heard of any man fleeing any of our islands because he failed to provide for his children, which is a consistent evil in our societies.
Nevertheless, when it does become time to consider gay marriage, I know that equality will be the first word thrown on the table. When it does come up, I would really love to see our reaction. I’m sure we will need to be reminded that our equality refers to everyone. If we remain thinking that ‘all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others’, to quote George Orwell, then perhaps we’ll have to re-visit our ideas of equality. In addition, if liberal democracy leads us to enact laws in favour of things which we believe are morally wrong, then maybe it is not the right governmental system for us.