June 27, 2015

Obergefell as a Tipping Point

Oblique facade 3, US Supreme Court
By Daderot (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
The news out of the Supreme Court this week (i.e., Obergefell v. Hodges) was fantastic and long overdue. Congratulations and thanks to every person who has been working to bring about marriage equality in the U.S. I have long expected that I would see this happen in my lifetime, but I wasn't sure how long it would take. Yesterday was a great day for equality!

So why didn't I join almost every other atheist blogger in posting about this big news here at Atheist Revolution yesterday? Good question. When news of the ruling broke, my thoughts immediately turned to Mississippi. You see, all of my LGBT friends who do not live in Mississippi live in states that already allow same-sex marriage. When I heard the news, I thought of those here in Mississippi and what this means for them. I thought about how we have yet another example of how the thoroughly Christian people of Mississippi refuse to do the right thing until the federal courts force them to do so. I decided to express myself at Mississippi Atheists instead of writing a post here.

As happy as I am to finally see marriage equality come to Mississippi (and the rest of the states that hadn't yet seen fit to treat their citizens equally under the law), there is something bittersweet about it. This progress, as wonderful as it is, makes me think about all the other areas where we desperately need similar progress. There are still many states, including Mississippi, where it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and the same goes for denying housing. This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Aside from sexual orientation and the remaining barriers to full equality for LGBT persons, we have much progress to make in other important areas. We still have government sponsored symbols of division (like this flag and this motto) that need to go. Religiously motivated hatred of atheists is still a significant problem, as is the success the Christian majority enjoys in limiting your freedom.

This is part of what I mean when I say yesterday's news was bittersweet - it reminds me of the other areas where we need real progress. In addition, it was bittersweet in the sense that it makes me wonder why it often seems so damn difficult for us to do the right thing. Did we really learn nothing from the legal prohibitions of interracial marriage that were the norm at one point? Could we not have figured out that same-sex marriage was a basic human right a long time ago without the courts? It seems so obvious. Why do we keep allowing Christianity to get in the way like this?

My sincere hope is that the legacy of Obergefell ends up being far broader than marriage equality. I hope it shows us what is possible and serves as a tipping point. I'd like us to refuse to tolerate inequality and to reject the right of Christians to restrict our rights. I hope we can take the energy around the decision and move forward to achieve full equality for LGBT persons. And then, I'd like to see a real push for full equality for atheists. Hatred of atheists has no more place in a civilized society than the hatred of any other group.
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