Monday night, Bill and I got to have dinner with an old friend I haven’t seen in a few years. Among the myriad of subjects we talked about was his relationship with a man in El Salvador. Although the two could marry legally in the state where he lives, the United States’ immigration policy gives special rights to legally married heterosexual citizens that are denied to gay and lesbian taxpayers. Hence they cannot be together except for the few weeks a year that my friend can travel to El Salvador.
As we talked, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be forced to live apart for most of the year from someone you love. Of course, it outraged me that same-gender couples are law-abiding citizens who pay the same taxes as heterosexual citizens but do not get the same civil rights. Why is blatant discrimination acceptable in parts of this country? Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the main reason that correcting this wrong has been excluded from the current immigration reform law. Graham, of course, represents a rightwing state, and, while he knows that discrimination is wrong, this is the same state that started the Civil War to preserve the right of white people to own black people. Some things really haven’t changed, and the sense of entitlement of the majority is apparently one of them.
While we talked on Monday night, I found myself feeling a great sense of anger and indignation. I’ve been fighting this kind of evil most of my adult life. My friend talked about the supportive note he had gotten back from his senator when he told her his story and how this issue was impacting his life. At that point my anger turned to shame. I realized that, while I have a very low opinion of Lindsey Graham and his ilk, I have done absolutely nothing other than complain about this injustice.
I’ve lived in the South my entire life, and I know how it is. My fellow residents have a reputation for being prejudiced and narrow-minded and consistently have elected the worst possible politicians. All of that may be true, but what is also true, though, is that the people I live around are kind and generous and their minds are profoundly changed when they know someone who is suffering in reality. Some would call them ignorant, but, if that is true, it is partially my fault because I for one am not doing enough to inform them.
I’m thinking this is what Jesus meant when he said, “You shall be my witnesses.” My friend, and Jesus, deserve an apology from me.