Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Obtaining Rights: Not an All or Nothing Game

At the foot of the lamps located in the courtyards of the US Supreme Court are little metal replicas of turtles. Why? These turtles are supposed to represent the "slow but steady pace of justice." The rationale for these turtles is quite reminiscent of the saying that the arc of history is long, but it always bends toward justice. Indeed, it seems that it always does. While history may take some backwards steps every now and then, our countries history has seemed to move in a direction which gives those disadvantaged more rights.

"We the people," when the US Constitution was penned in 1789 constituted a much more different demographic than "We the people" today. Women and African Americans were not part of that demographic. Perhaps only white property owning men were the only ones that constituted the "people" back then.

Equal justice under law is something that is an ideal. Never is it ever a reality. It's an ideal that we as a country strive for and that takes time to accomplish and attain. Perhaps this is why those groups fighting for certain rights nowadays realize that the choice isn't really all or nothing. Baby steps are required. Incrementalism. And sometimes when change in favor of more rights takes place, this change can actually be counterproductive.

Recently The Washington Post ran an article commenting on this very phenomenon about the gay rights movement in Russia. There is a divide between those that believe that the gay rights movement is actually engendering more homophobia and creating an argument against giving gay men and lesbians more rights. While it seems that the backlash against the gay rights movement in Russia would have happened anyway, the degree to which the backlash is occurring may be different had the rights movement taken a more back seat approach and therefore encountered less opposition.

And while the opposition that the gay rights movement is facing in Russia may not necessarily apply to the gay rights movement here in the US, it is certainly interesting to consider that not too long ago, opposition to the same-sex marriage ruling in MA sparked a similar "backlash" against the gay rights movement.

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