The 26th of June 2015: Today I Am Proud to be an American

My Oklahoma License Plate featuring Human Rights Campaign's Sticker (edited for personal privacy)

In all honesty I did not think that this type of progress was possible in the current political and social landscape present in the U.S. However, what I have witnessed in the US, in the past three days, has solidified my hope that positive change will happen in my lifetime. In the past three days, monumental change has taken place in America:

1) Two Days Ago: Southern States, that have have histories of violence and discrimination towards minorities, finally began recognizing the racist and hateful nature of the 'Confederate Battle Flag' and are working to remove that horrible symbol from state buildings, dismantle ill-conceived war memorials commemorating Southern traitors, and solidifying the social stigma that needs to be associated with that flag.  Without delving too deep into a history lesson, and ignoring the fact that the continuation of slavery was the second most emphasized cause for the South’s secession, I will briefly dispel the whole ‘the South was no more racist than American society of the time’ argument. The Confederate States of America (CSA), in its founding documents, clearly emphasized racist intent. Yes the USA had slavery, but it was defined as “Person(s) held to Service or Labour”. By contrast, in their new Constitution, the CSA used the term 'Negro Slaves' in Article IV. Section 3. The CSA made a clear distinction of highlighting the colour of the slaves’ skin - a definitively racist maneuver. The common refrain I heard growing up was “Heritage not Hate”. Even more absurd is when those who still uphold ‘Southern Heritage’ often claim that racism no longer exists since slavery and segregation are in the past. Yet the very past they are telling Black people to let go of is the exact same past some Southerners are clinging on to when displaying the Confederate Battle Flag or the Stars and Bars. While history is important to learn and should not be forgotten, in the case of the CSA, that Heritage is Hate.

2) Yesterday: The Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as 'ObamaCare', which added to the long list of victories for that piece of legislation - including over 50 failed challenges to defund and/or repeal by the House of Representatives and a prior Supreme Court case that likewise upheld the law. Adding to these legal victories are the costs of the legislation coming in under budget, numerous success stories in patient coverage and care, and a drop in the number of uninsured Americans. In contrast to the intended policy outcomes from the legislation, a majority of Americans (55%) still disapprove of the law.

3) Today: In an historic day for the United States of America, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has found that state bans on marriage for homosexual couples are unconstitutional. Their ruling effectively legalizes gay marriage in all 50 states in the union. The 26th of June 2015 will be a date that lives forever in history. Those who have opposed equality for LGBTQ persons are now officially on the wrong side of history. I have been an avid supporter of marriage equality for my entire adult life:
"To deny a fellow human being the right to express their love for a fellow human being, in an adult and consenting fashion, just because they are a homosexual, is nothing short of hateful and vitriolic. Make no mistake, opposition to marriage equality is nothing short of hate, regardless of how you try and justify it. Opposing homosexuality may be part of your religious beliefs, but you have absolutely no right to make someone else submit to your beliefs in such an arbitrary manner." - Excerpt from my 2013 Article on Marriage Equality
What always baffled me was the fact that the Marriage Equality issue has nothing to do with individual churches or their procedures. The argument is just to extend equal protection under the law (See: 14th Amendment) to the LGBTQ community, for rights already enjoyed by straight couples.

TheNolanK, Love, Wins, Marriage, Equality, #LoveWins
(My girlfriend and I during our 2014 road trip to California)
Intolerance that arises from discrimination against someone for something they cannot themselves choose (i.e. Sex, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation) is not the same as intolerance against those who discriminate by cognitive choice. Thus, based on a choice, bigots who justify discrimination by citing their religious beliefs or political platform are discriminating, by choice, against something for which a person cannot choose. Characteristics of a person that are indivisible from their DNA, and are not arrived at by choice, will always outweigh the characteristics that people elect to either hold or believe. Intolerance or discrimination against someone for an innate characteristic they have no choice or control over is inherently wrong and negative. Just as in the early to mid 20th century, when Government mandates against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or skin colour were issued, it was similarly the ultra-conservative right wing religious community clinging to "Religious Freedom" and "State's Rights" that served as the last bastion for discrimination and bigotry. It comes as no surprise that those opposing the rulings for love and equality today are largely the same ideological demographic that so opposed the rulings for race and gender equality all those years ago. Furthermore, there are largely no differences between today's arguments against marriage equality verses the arguments against non-whites and interracial marriages from the 1850's up to the late 20th century.

The idea of a Democracy Society is to not allow the majority to disenfranchise and discriminate against the innate characteristics of a minority. Enabling discrimination under the guise of 'Freedom of Religion' is not protection of the First Amendment but rather a thinly veiled attempt to enable homophobic bigots the ability to deny fellow decency and equal protection under the law towards homosexuals - and frankly anybody they deem to not be in accordance with their own interpretation of religious beliefs, including Muslims, atheists, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. However, intolerance towards those who discriminate against someone for characteristics they neither choose nor control is a positive social element. This form of social intolerance is the positive force that enabled women's suffrage, the civil rights movement, and equality based on sex, race, ethnicity, or disability - as well as today's victory for marriage equality.

Yes the U.S. still has its flaws, especially when compared to other developed nations, but this recent series of events has served to lessen that divide. Extreme income inequality and an exorbitant amount of intentional homicides still plagues the U.S. Issues like those still have yet to be adequately addressed. Make no mistake, the long march ahead for true equality remains an ominous challenge, but today, the 26th of June in the year 2015, love wins.

Closing Note: This amazing three day stretch follows President Barack Obama's interview on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast. At just over an hour long, I have already listened to the interview, in its entirety, multiple times. The news cycle picked up on one tiny element of the conversation, but the President gives a candid and very nuanced overview of the political landscape in the US. Click here to listen to Marc Maron's WTF Podcast with President Barack Obama

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