Faith asks a great deal of us. We are expected to see what is not necessarily visible and hear and understand that which is ineffable. That capacity to see and hear with both faith and conscience lies at the heart of the quest for equal rights for LGBT families. But unlike the faiths that so many of us profess, this quest is supported by what our eyes can see and our ears can hear –if our hearts are open.
SB232-Civil Unions Bill Passed by Senate, Goes to the House
As a civil unions bill makes it way through the Hawaii legislature, hopes are high that the LGBT community’s call for equality will finally be heard.
LGBT couples and families for years have asked that their repeated, anguished calls for an end to discrimination and for equal treatment under the law be heard. Too often their experience has been something akin to that of the frustrated caller on a bad phone connection, yelling “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”
Perhaps the question they should have been asking is “Can you see me now?”
Seeing Our LGBT Neighbors
For those who cannot see fellow human beings deserving of full dignity and rights in their LGBT family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, help is available.
Go to www.hawaiifamilyportraits.org
You’ll be able to visit with a wide spectrum of families in Hawaii whose stories are told in beautiful, text-supported photographs by Mike Ang. From Native Hawaiians to people from far away who have made Hawaii home; from an Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court to new immigrants; from growing up as targets of bullying to building mutually supportive professional lives; from becoming a committed couple to enlarging the family to welcome children. They are people in our community who are paying taxes, raising children, living useful lives. And they all want what everyone wants: equality.
To meet men and women, children and families of another state where the rocky road to justice did end in jubilation, go to www.CourtingEquality.org
Or better still, buy the book.
Warning: It is hard to flip through the book quickly because the evocative pictures by Marilyn Humphries make you linger on the love and solidarity that shine through. Every picture tells a story of the strong bonds of family or the innocence of children who have not learned discrimination. Eloquent images of clasped hands and gloriously blended families, are radiant with love. But shadowing these images of happy couples and families are messages of discrimination and of non-recognition, non-seeing too.
Throughout this story of Massachusetts’ ground-breaking journey to equality written by Pat Gozemba and Karen Kahn, the invitation to “see” and the desire to “be seen” keeps recurring. We hear Mary Bonauto, of New England’s Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) team say early in the Introduction, that marriage rights for same sex couples would not happen till the legal system “could see gay men and lesbians as whole men and women, with the same aspirations and needs as others.”
The biggest factor in the huge shift in attitude in society with more and more people believing in equal rights for gays, is, according to the authors, “the individual decisions by millions of gay men and lesbians to come out—that is to openly identify themselves to family, friends and colleagues.”
In other words, like women, like African Americans, like indigenous peoples, LGBT people asked to be seen.
In 1985 only 25% of Americans reported knowing gay people in their circle of family or friends. By 2000, that had jumped to 75%. They were beginning to see.
And so were the courts. In 2003, the Supreme Court declared that “when homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination in both the public and private spheres.” (Lawrence v. Texas)
Gozemba and Kahn’s interpretation of the significance of this ruling is framed in terms of seeing. They see the scales falling from the eyes of the justices:
“For the first time, the highest court in the nation saw gay men and lesbians as whole human beings whose sexual orientation could not be used to diminish their humanity.”
We have the opportunity in Hawaii to let those same scales fall and look at the world and our LGBT friends and family through the clarifying lens of aloha.
Visit www.equality808.com and learn how you can help make Hawaii a place where people truly see God and their shared humanity in all their neighbors.
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Have sent many friends to this great blogpost. Karen and I were very proud to have Tambry Young and Suzanne King married at our home in Salem. The photo of them and their daughter Shylar at Salem’s Waikiki Beach (which is in our neighborhood) was great. Glad to see it here. Webster’s eloquent metaphor of “seeing” reveals so much about the plight of LGBT people. We are “seen” by all kinds of folks in different ways. But if people would just take the time to “see” us as they see their families and friends–people whom they love and respect, I suspect our civil rights would accrue to us much sooner. With allies like Dawn Webster, we’ll get to full equality soon!