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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Alexi Giannoulias: The Fierce Urgency Of Today's Civil Rights Movement

Alexi%20Giannoulias    Forty-three years ago, it was entirely legal for states to prevent an interracial couple from getting married. The Supreme Court ended this discrimination, relying on the long-held view that racial classifications are "odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality."
   Today, same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married in all but five of our nation's states and in D.C. The rampant, institutionalized discrimination that tarnishes statues on the state and federal level is just as "odious to a free people" as the institutionalized discrimination that was rightly rejected almost half a century ago. And yet, despite the fact that millions of Americans are deprived of the fundamental right to marry, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is treated like a back-burner issue by D.C. politicians who wrongly view the issue through the prism of politics rather than through the eyes of those who are directly and negatively impacted by continued inaction.
   It is not only committed LGBT couples that are unfairly forced to wait on the sidelines for action. Gay and lesbian Americans put their lives on the line in uniform every day only to be treated like second-class citizens who much chose between serving their country or hiding their sexual orientation. Every day that passes without a repeal of DADT disgraces their honor and is a slap in the face to those brave Americans.
   Treating all of our courageous soldiers equally. Promoting families and allowing loving, committed couples to marry and adopt. These are not just "LGBT issues." These are bedrock issues of equality that test the character of our entire nation. The painful discrimination endured by LGBT Americans at the hands of the intolerant shames us all.
It must end. It must end now. There will come a day when we look back at the disparate treatment of LGBT Americans by state and federal government with disgust and horror. There will come a day when caveats and code words like "civil unions" will give way to the simple concept of "equal under the law." It is my fervent hope that day comes quickly, so that we may finally live up to the ideal of America as a true beacon of freedom and equality.
   I truly believe that ensuring equality for LGBT Americans is a civil rights issue, no different than those which have consumed our nation in the past. Now, like then, is when we need bold leaders who aren't afraid to stand up for the Constitution and for the citizens it is supposed to protect. Now is when the millions of Americans yearning for true equality deserve more than words. The "fierce urgency of now" calls out for action, and it's time for Congress to deliver.

Alexi Giannoulias is running for US Senate in Illinois as the Democratic nominee.  You can support his race by clicking here.


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