Brent Budowsky: Gay rights, black lives

Brent Budowsky: Gay rights, black lives
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From the day Thomas Jefferson declared that all straight white men are created equal, our nation has lived the epic story of the great battle for civil rights, equal rights and human rights that embodies true American exceptionalism.

Jefferson believed every generation should write its own rules to expand the boundaries of freedom. He would be proud of those who battle today for equal rights for gays, equal pay for women, equal protection for voting, fair treatment for immigrants, fair wages for workers, and freedom from fear for black citizens — who should never be regarded as enemies of the state living disposable lives by anyone entrusted to defend our communities.

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2015 will someday be known as the year of gay rights, when an American consensus was born that we should all be free to love and marry the person of our choice, but also as the year when too many blacks were killed by police, and America was reminded, through prayers I share and protests I join, that black lives matter too.

During this year of gay rights, a political battle was waged in Indiana and Arkansas that powerfully demonstrated that equal rights for gays has achieved mainstream support at the center of American life. In Indiana, the opposition to Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s actions became such a political disaster that he was taken off most lists of 2016 presidential prospects.

What was striking in Indiana and Arkansas — and across America — was how the business community joined rights advocates and many Main Street voters supporting the simple justice of equal rights for gays.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about same-sex marriage, which should — and, in my view, probably will — result in the right to same-sex marriage being declared the law of the land. When government regulates marriage, all Americans should be treated equally!

Not long ago, many had argued vehemently that gays should not be allowed to serve in the military and that women should be seated at the back of the military bus. Now, after years of war that have imposed great stresses on our military forces, the heroism of gays and women in uniform is valued and honored as highly as the heroism of straights and men. Patriotism, valor and honor in service to country knows no race or gender!

It is politically and legally powerful that in the gay marriage case, retired military officers filed one of the most important amicus briefs in support of marriage equality. They make the incontrovertible argument that national security is harmed by discriminatory laws that force active-duty troops and military families to be transferred from states that recognize their marriage to states that do not.

If those who are straight want to date, fall in love with, or marry someone, nobody who is gay has ever demanded that person should be denied that right. Should I — or you — demand that the power of the state deny that right to someone who is gay? No. The Constitution demands equal justice under law, including laws regulating marriage.

Regarding the crisis afflicting blacks and police, the overwhelming majority of police are heroes who protect our communities with honor. But these repeated and horrifying abuses and injustices of blacks being killed by police must end.

President Obama should convene a three-day summit of civil rights leaders, police chiefs and unions, religious leaders of all denominations and congressional leaders from both parties to develop and implement a plan. It should include funding for universal cameras on police — to protect citizens and police alike — and funding to support local jurisdictions to expand hiring, integration and training of police.

2015 is the year when gay rights are winning and black lives are threatened. 2016 will bring a great national debate about equality, fairness and justice for all, after which America’s first black president may well be succeeded by America’s first woman president. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.