On the issue of same sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court should follow the lead of the NAACP.
No organization better understands the heinous burden of discriminatory legislation than the NAACP. It labored for decades to tear down obstacles to civil rights in public accommodations, education, housing and transportation. It also fought prohibitions against interracial marriages.
The NAACP opposes all anti-gay marriage laws because they "seek to codify discrimination or hatred into law" and consequently "to remove the constitutional rights of LGBT citizens."
No two struggles are exactly alike. The NAACP won the day by dismantling de jure segregation, a heinous system of overt oppression that influenced every aspect of American society. But the gay struggle for equal protection under the law is entirely in keeping with the civil rights mission of constitutional equality.
I personally believe that the Rev. Martin Luther King, with his high ethical standards and his belief in the "beloved community," would have embraced the democratic freedoms of gays, were he with us today. King would no more have been deterred by religious arguments against homosexuality than he was by the many biblical justifications of segregation, which were commonplace in his time.
King can't speak, but we still have the voice of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a veteran of some of the bloodiest civil rights protest marches, and a follower of King's nonviolent activism.
"I've heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples," Lewis has said. "Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred and intolerance I have known in racism and bigotry."
The NAACP's reasonable position is that no church should be forced to marry gay couples, if it chooses not to do so, but any church that chooses to sanction same-sex unions can, while all states should have to recognize civil unions performed by the local justice of the peace.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief concerning the Defense of Marriage Act that the Supreme Court is reviewing. It properly called that law "degrading and oppressive." It noted that the legislation "demeans and stigmatizes gays and lesbians generally and consigns married gay men and lesbians in particular, by operation of law, to an inferior status."
The principle at stake is no less than the right of all Americans to enjoy the privileges of democracy. This right trumps individual intolerance, approval or disapproval of homosexuality, or objections to broadening the definition of marriage.
Personal biases should be as legally irrelevant as approval or disapproval of skin color. Intense religious feelings of antipathy toward homosexuality do not justify discriminatory legislation.
The NAACP knows what prejudice is, and the Supreme Court should listen to it, and rule in favor of same sex marriage.
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and journalist living in Santa Fe, N.M. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.