Crossroads on the Path to a More Perfect Union
America finds itself at a real turning point in the struggle for equality. And, as during all turning points, it's as if we are watching the struggle unfold on a split screen: progress on one side, setbacks on the other.
On one side of the screen, the fact that in last week's elections more openly gay candidates were elected to office than in any other election in our history.
On the other side, the fact that three judges on the
On one side, Secretary of Defense
On the other, Gen.
As we feel the exhilaration of watching our country make progress, and then feel the despair of watching it lurch back, it's worth remembering that not a single civil rights milestone in our country has been achieved without a struggle -- and many setbacks.
For while the forward march of American democracy has been steady, it has often been slow. Our union will never be perfect, but, as the framers wrote in the preamble to the Constitution, it is designed to constantly become more perfect. When they wrote those words, the rights and protections of women, African-Americans and Native Americans were not yet recognized.
But those rights were certainly there. They were always there. What changed was our ability to connect with the values explicitly embedded in our founding documents. Or, to be more precise, what changed was our inability to tolerate the disconnect between those values and how our society was structured.
The Emancipation Proclamation. The 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote. Brown v. Board of Education. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
We look back at those achievements now and they seem so natural, so obvious. Indeed, it's hard to imagine
But in their time, that's not how it seemed. For the brave men and women who fought for these achievements, it must have seemed a lot like the split-screen struggle for equality today.
Take the Voting Rights Act. In
Two days later came the Selma march that shocked the conscience of the nation. And five months after the march, LBJ signed the National Voting Rights Act into law, with Dr. King and
And today, the forces of regression know that the gay civil rights movement is also on the cusp of victory and that once victory is achieved, the next day we will find it hard to imagine that it was ever in question.
Those who oppose equal rights for the LGBT community are not just standing against the right of gays and lesbians to marry the person they love, or to openly serve in the military -- they are standing against the inevitable.
It's inevitable because this is not an issue that can be dismissed as belonging only to the left or to the right, as demonstrated by the legal dream team of
But just because it's inevitable doesn't mean we don't need to fight to make it happen. We do. It's a fight to make sure that America stays on the path leading to a more perfect union.
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Crossroads on the Path to a More Perfect Union
(c) 2010 Arianna Huffington