A little something for everyone who thinks there’s some manifest difference between the struggle gays and lesbians are having for their rights, and the struggle blacks and other minorities have had:
Justice Albie Sachs of the South African Constitutional Court tackled the issue of same-sex marriage Wednesday afternoon in Swift Hall during a lecture sponsored by the Human Rights Program.
Sachs said that as he looked down from the bench of the Constitutional Court of South Africa at the crowds waiting to hear its decision in the Fourie gay marriage case, decided last month, Sachs reflected back on a Gay Pride parade he had attended in Cape Town in 1991.
“We were at a park I’d grown up near. Back then, there were signs up saying ‘Whites Only,’” Sachs said. “Now, there were invisible signs saying ‘Straights Only.’ The same signs that would prevent a black and a white from sitting in that park holding hands would prevent a gay couple from doing the same.”
Sachs cited his nation’s past experience with intolerance as a major influence in his landmark opinion in the case, which ordered the South African Parliament to equalize marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Sachs, interestingly enough, had been detained and forced into exile by South Africa’s apartheid government, which also, in 1988, put a bomb in his car that caused him to lose an arm and an eye. He’s walked the walk for equality, which I strongly suspect allows him to talk the talk. If he says there are parallels between the struggle for racial equality and the struggle for the rights of gays and lesbians, it’s hard to gainsay him on the matter.
Of course, the US is not South Africa. Thing is, when it came to the rights of its citizens — all of them — this was something we used to have the right to be proud about.