Marriage Equality NY Wedding March Comments – Sept. 26, 2010

photo of Robin Wilt speaking in front of the county office building
photo by Ove Overmyer
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” (16 Apr. 1963) said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

I can think of no better quote to describe why as a heterosexual, African-American woman, I am a staunch advocate for marriage equality.

Marriage equality is about civil rights.  It is about ensuring that the provisions of our Constitution extend equally to all individuals.  If we fail to do so, then all of the individual freedoms that we enjoy are at risk.

Some of you may know that I am in an interracial marriage.  My marriage was illegal in 16 states until a Supreme Court ruling, Loving v. Virginia, struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 1967.  There are undeniable parallels between the arguments made against interracial marriage and those made against equal marriage.  In Loving v. Virginia, Justice Earl Warren says in his opinion, “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

Although Loving v. Virginia was about interracial marriage, the ruling went beyond the issue of racial bans by establishing marriage as part of the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Constitution.

Legal considerations aside, one of the most important things that the Loving v. Virginia ruling demonstrates to us as equal marriage activists today, is that change doesn’t always come from the top down. This case came about because of two people—Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, a black man and a white woman—who felt their rights had been violated.  So a large part of the story is that individuals striving for their rights in the legal system can create change. Legal scholars call this “rights consciousness."

So, I urge all of you “rights conscious” people to continue in our collective struggle for equal marriage.  And when I am in the state Senate, I pledge to you that I will stand with you there, as I stand with you here today.

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