Civil rights

Posted By on April 17, 2009

I’m going to Ohio City on Sunday for my second afternoon of canvassing for gay rights. Working with AskCleveland, a liberal, flexible issues advocacy group, I’ll walk a neighborhood in support of the domestic partnership registry, which Cleveland City Council created in a 13-7 vote in December. When it takes effect next month, it will help extend benefits such as hospital visitation and employee benefits, treating gay and unmarried couples normally.

It doesn’t take effect until May, but a group of African-American ministers is already mobilizing against the registry in the name of heterosexual, more conventional marriage. The Cleveland Coalition of Churches, the minister’s coalition, is saying the registry flouts state law; four years ago, the state of Ohio resoundingly and revoltingly passed a resolution banning gay marriage.

Weird that a prominent group of African-Americans would battle civil rights, particularly after the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president.

I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to be African-American or gay—I’m heterosexual, though eons ago I skirted homosexuality once—but I’ve always felt civil rights are just that: freedoms available to all rather than privileges available only to a select few.

It feels odd to represent gays when I’m not. It also feels good. Those who call homosexuality unnatural and anti-family only betray their prejudices and fears. There is room for all kinds—of gender, shape, appetite, aspiration, faith—on the planet, particularly in the U.S., which is finally growing up.

The legalization of gay marriage in Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and New York Gov. David Paterson’s putting his clout behind such a move in his state, put momentum on the side of civil rights. You’d think such rights were built in to U.S. culture and society, but no. Each breakthrough—they come particularly hard in Ohio, where yahoos often set the agenda—comes hard. Canvassing neighborhoods and organizing them to fight against forces that would repeal the domestic partner registry are key steps.

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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: