Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King challenged America to “stand up for freedom together.” He called for an end to the assault on the dignity and rights of black citizens that the signs “For Whites Only” represented.
Today in 2011, the people of Hawaii are close to seeing another kind of discrimination end: the kind that says “For Heterosexuals Only.”
On the eve of the opening of the 2011 legislature, when hopes run high that a civil unions bill will be passed and allowed to become law, we are called once again to recognize our inter-connectedness. We are called to recognize publicly and through the instrument of law that the freedom of GLBT families is inextricably bound to the freedom of all families in Hawaii.
Catholics who believe in equality for all can point to the public commitment to justice expressed in Pope Benedict XVI’s Intentions for January, 2011. Those intentions state that “the riches of creation be preserved, valued and made available to all, as precious gifts from God to mankind.” Those intentions express the hope that “Christians may achieve full unity, bearing witness of the universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race.”
Despite the very public stance against civil unions by the Catholic Church and its evangelical allies in Hawaii, Catholics should feel empowered to speak out and support the passage of a civil unions bill as an expression of faith. In doing so, they will not be running counter to Church teaching if Pope Benedict’s words are to be believed. The “universal fatherhood of God to the entire human race” should mean exactly what it says: that all are equal and that no one should be crippled by what Dr. King called the “chains of discrimination.”
We speak readily of Jesus being among us as an article of faith. Yet it may be hard to see Jesus in those whose way of life we do not understand, whose sexuality we cannot adequately explain. They may be our children, our brothers and sisters, our aunts or uncles, cousins, friends, colleagues or neighbors. It may be hard, but our faith calls us to recognize the shared humanity, equally blessed by the Divine, of those who keep insisting as Martin Luther King did in 1963, that for them, as much as for every citizen, we “make real the promises of democracy.”
As we remember Martin Luther King’s commitment to justice for black Americans, a commitment that cost him his life, let’s renew our own commitment towards making real the promises of democracy for GLBT families in Hawaii.
Join others, straight and gay, who have already spoken up for equal rights because they understand the “fierce urgency of Now.”