I wrote the following article in response to Joel Burns’ famous speech during a Fort Worth city council meeting. I talk about bullying and gay rights, specifically gay marriage, but felt that I would take too much of a tangent if I talked about the recent Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) developments. After I wrote this column, DADT was temporarily reinstated and has led to tremendous confusion over the issue. I will likely write another column about it soon once the smoke clears.
IN ALMOST every school across the world, bullying is an issue. Bullies often pick on those who are different from everyone else. A particular group that suffers disproportionately from bullying is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning children and teens. These youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.
Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns recently gave a speech during a city council meeting in response to the issue, telling gay youth “it will get better.” A gay man who himself had been bullied in school, Burns responded to a slew of recent suicides by gay teens and called for more action to prevent future tragedies such as the ones he listed from occurring again. His emotional speech has garnered over 1.8 million views on YouTube and looks like it just may be the catalyst needed for change.
Burns’ speech brings up two issues: gay rights and bullying. Burns chose a good time to make his speech, since October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is an issue that is extremely prevalent in schools everywhere, yet it is seldom talked about or addressed sufficiently. His speech has been, and will continue to be, a great tool for increasing awareness and inspiring parents, teachers and students to get involved in recognizing and preventing bullying.
While everyone agrees that bullying should be curtailed, the public remains split on the issue of gay rights. Therefore, this issue has overshadowed bullying and even elicited negative comments about his speech from some who oppose gay rights.
There is no reason that people should be treated differently based on their sexual orientation, whether it is through bullying or denial of equal rights. Nearly half a century after the civil rights movement, there is still inequality among people of different races, genders and sexual orientations.
One of the most controversial issues within civil rights today is that of gay marriage. Burns himself is married to another man, but many others are denied the same right. To fully understand the issue of gay marriage, we must take a step back and look at marriage as it is today.
People need marriage licenses if they want to get married. Why? The entire reason government is involved in marriage in the first place is because of racism. In the 1920s, 38 states in the U.S. had laws prohibiting whites from marrying those of other ethnicities including blacks, Japanese, Chinese and Indians, according to an article in The New York Times.
The answer is to separate church and state and make churches the sole arbiter of marriages. The government should give civil unions to two consenting adults, regardless of gender, for any purposes such as Social Security survivor’s benefits, taking leave from work to care for a spouse and hospital visitation rights.
If we can make this happen, we will have made a great leap towards equality in this country.