Gender & Sexuality

What Some Black Church Leaders Have Wrong About Gay Marriage -- and Civil Rights

From Stonewall to Black Lives Matter, the African American LGBT community has always been on the forefront of fights for equality.

(Photo: AP/Jacqueline Martin)
(Photo: AP/Jacqueline Martin) On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a right to marry anywhere in the country. T he African American church and its leadership have often been at the forefront of movements for equality. But the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has shed light on the resistance to social change among some black church leaders —and has left them sounding more like white conservative leaders. On June 26, the Court ruled that two consenting adults have the right to get married—even if they are the same gender. As conservatives lamented the loss of morality and warned of the hellfire that would soon rain down upon us, President Barack Obama and the White House celebrated the decision. Just a few hours later, Obama delivered a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was a South Carolina state senator and a pastor at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church before he was shot and killed, along with eight...

A Good Week for America

On a number of fronts, real progressive change is on the horizon. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin From left, Annie Katz of the University of Michigan, Zaria Cummings of Michigan State University, Spencer Perry of Berkeley, California, and Justin Maffett of Dartmouth University, celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation. It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance. Yet this is one of those...

Conscience and the Culture Wars

Conservatives say marriage equality and health-care laws threaten their religious freedom. Should they be exempt?

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler
AP Photo/Doug McSchooler Dominic Dorsey uses a megaphone as he leads a group of opponents to Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in a march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . T hese days, conservatives seem to own “conscience.” Consider the current objection to marriage equality. “Some citizens may conclude that they cannot in good conscience participate in a same-sex ceremony, from priests and pastors to bakers and florists,” argues the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson. “The government should not force them to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood.” Serving same-sex couples, business owners assert, would make them complicit in relationships they deem sinful, and so they claim religious exemptions from state and local antidiscrimination laws. Conscience is also the rallying cry of conservatives opposed...

Unhappy Justices

The Supreme Court's conservative wing seems increasingly out of touch with 21st century America—and reality. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Carlos McKnight of Washington, waves a flag in support of gay marriage outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015. A ll unhappy Supreme Court justices, as Tolstoy never said, have their own stories, and this was never more apparent than it was last week. To be sure, each of the four justices who issued dissenting opinions to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion affirming a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage made the same argument: There was no such right, they each declared, so the decision to establish one should be left to the voters or legislators of the states. But each did so in his own disconsolate (or in Antonin Scalia’s case, dyspeptic) fashion, and digressed in distinctive ways. Not surprisingly, Chief Justice John Roberts issued the most politic dissent, acknowledging right at the start that “the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling,” and concluding with the goodwill send-...

But Was the Court's Ruling on Marriage Democratic?

Contrary to critics, extending rights to long-oppressed groups lies at the heart of our democratic system. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Members of security stand outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday June 29, 2015. N ever has a revolution in moral and legal judgment occurred so quickly. Only 29 years ago, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court dismissed arguments for the most basic constitutional protections for gay people as, “at best, facetious.” Now, thanks to a new majority on the Court, we have something barely imaginable just a few years ago: a constitutional right to marriage equality. Yet there is a potential stain on this victory for equal rights. The four justices dissenting from the Court’s historic same-sex marriage decision charge that it is undemocratic. According to Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court is “stealing this issue from the people.” A “judicial Putsch,” Justice Antonin Scalia declares. The charge of democratic illegitimacy rolls through the four dissents like thunder, and it may resonate widely. Some notable progressive legal thinkers, such as...

Republicans Need to Find a New Culture War to Fight

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais In this Friday, June 26, 2015 file photo, people gather in Lafayette Park to see the White House illuminated with rainbow colors in commemoration of the Supreme Court's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. W hile Antonin Scalia's dissents in last week's two blockbuster cases were full of his usual colorful bombast (I can't wait to respond to a line of baloney someone gives me with "That, sir, is pure applesauce !"), there was one line that stuck out for me. In Obergefell v. Hodges , the gay marriage case, Scalia aimed his withering contempt at Anthony Kennedy's assertion in the majority opinion that two people can find "other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality" in the bond of marriage. "Really?" Scalia wrote. "Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest...

Which Woman Should Adorn the $10 Bill?

A shortlist of agitators, activists, and other influential top contenders.  

Public Domain
Public Domain I n a speech last year in Kansas City, President Barack Obama said he received a letter from a nine-year-old girl that included a list of possible women to put on America’s paper bills and coins, “which I thought was a pretty good idea." In March of this year, Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone started a campaign called Women on 20s to demand that the government replace former President Andrew Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with a woman from history. Now, the Obama administration is following through, although not in the way that the two women and the many followers they galvanized had hoped. Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that in 2020—the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote—a woman will appear on the $10 note, not the $20 bill. Lew explained that the $10 bill was already scheduled to be redesigned to deal with counterfeiting threats. The new currency will feature state-of-the-art security and composition...

This is What Happens When Abortion is Outlawed

Restrictive anti-abortion laws in states like Texas are forcing women into dangerous situations. 

AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca
AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca A man walks past the former site of a clinic that offered abortions in El Paso, Texas, Friday, October 3, 2014. Abortion services for many Texas women require a round trip of more than 200 miles, or a border-crossing into Mexico or New Mexico after federal appellate judges allowed full implementation of a law that has closed more than 80 percent of Texas' abortion clinics. I n Paraguay, a 10-year-old rape victim is denied an abortion —even though her stepfather is her attacker. In El Salvador, suicide is the cause of death for 57 percent of pregnant females between ages 10 and 19. In Nicaragua, doctors are anxious about even treating a miscarriage. All of these instances are the result of draconian abortion laws that have outlawed critical reproductive care in nations throughout Latin America. If stories like these seem remote to American readers, it’s because they’ve been largely eliminated through widespread access to basic abortion services beginning in...

From Same-Sex Marriage to Polygamy?

Why there is no slippery slope.

AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren
AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren This artist rendering shows Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Joseph Walen arguing before the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Washington. W ith the Supreme Court likely to hand down its decision on same-sex marriage shortly, let’s consider the argument made by conservatives that seems to weigh most heavily with the public. Traditionalists warn against a “slippery slope” from gay rights to more radical change that would include legal recognition of polygamy. According to conservatives, those who want to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples cannot explain why it should stop there. At the Supreme Court’s oral argument Justice Samuel Alito invoked not only polygamous marriage but also the caring relationship of a brother and sister who reside together. Assuming consent and mutual commitment, why not let them all wed? If constitutional principles and reasoned reflection cannot help sort through the nettlesome...

The Trans Struggle for Justice Behind Bars is Just Beginning

Trans people nationwide have struggled successfully for basic rights in prison, but much more remains to be done. 

Project Q
Project Q Ashley Diamond at the Dragonique competition in Atlanta in 2011. This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence . F or the past three years, Ashley Diamond has been denied health care as well as protection from recurring violence from the men around her. But she has been fighting back—and her fight has been making headlines and wresting small changes from the Georgia Department of Corrections. Her story starkly illustrates the challenges facing trans women behind bars—from frequent violence and sexual assaults to the denial of hormones and other medical neglect. But Diamond’s experiences are far from unique, or even unusual. Nor is her decision to challenge prison policies around trans health care and safety an exception. Across the country, trans people have individually challenged and collectively organized to be free from physical, sexual and medical violence. In 2012, Ashley Diamond, a black trans woman, was sentenced and sent to a men’s prison. There, she was...

White Privilege and the Limits of Public Forgiveness

Mike Huckabee's vocal support for Josh Duggar is in sharp contrast to his indifference to black victims of police violence.

(Photo: AP/Nati Harnik)
(Photo: AP/Nati Harnik) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks in Iowa in April. The GOP presidential candidate was quick to voice his support for Josh Duggar, who this past week admitted to having molested children while a teenager. I n America, public forgiveness is largely dependent on race. In the weeks after Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, pundits and media outlets were quick to jump on a robbery Brown allegedly committed minutes before being fatally shot. Among them was 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who told NewsMax TV, “It's a horrible thing that he was killed, but he could have avoided that if he'd have behaved like something other than a thug.” For Huckabee, (alleged) theft was grounds for death. That is, if you look a certain way. Contrast these statements with Huckabee’s recent defense of reality TV regular Josh Duggar, who admitted last week to having molested young girls as a teenager in 2002 and...

Has Child Care Policy Finally Come of Age?

The Democrats may now be turning to a long-stalled agenda for working parents. 

AP Photo/Brett Flashnick
AP Photo/Brett Flashnick A soldier visits her son at a day-care facility at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The 1989 Military Child Care Act created a system of child-care centers with features civilian parents can only dream of. In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy By Elizabeth Palley and Corey S. Shdaimah 288 pp. New York University Press $30 T he Democratic Party is now turning to a new agenda for parents: not just an expanded earned income tax credit and child tax credit, but also paid family leave, universal preschool, and free community college. President Barack Obama encapsulated the message in his 2015 State of the Union address when he asserted that “affordable, high-quality child care … [is] not a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have.” He even made the children-as-social-good argument that’s been missing from the American discussion of family policy: “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas: The American Prospect at 25

Reflecting on a quarter century of politics and change.

T he American Prospect began 25 years ago with a small circulation, a limited budget, and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a moment when Democrats had lost three successive presidential elections, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but also of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image of an old world cracking open to...

Women as the Loyal Opposition

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Senator John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of state on January 24, 2014. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . L ong ago, when I began writing newspaper columns, a wise editor advised me that a column is about one thing. I am about to violate that rule. This piece is about three different things (which are connected if you look hard). One is a 25th anniversary; the second is some Mother's Day musings; the third is the latest in a string of losses for the left, namely the trouncing of the British Labour Party in Thursday's election. Let me explain. In 1990, Robert Reich, Paul Starr and I founded a new progressive magazine, The American Prospect , to try to breathe some intellectual spirit and political backbone into American liberalism. At the time, liberals were getting whacked both by...

Mother's Day, For Real

In the real America, the lives of women—especially black and brown women—are no bed of roses.

In partnership with The OpEd Project, The American Prospect presents this series, curated by Deborah Douglas, examining aspects of life unique to women, on one of greeting card industry's biggest days. (Photo © Christopher Futcher: iStock) Why There Are No Children Here: A Mother's Day Lament DEBORAH DOUGLAS “What have you ever done right?” That was the question that dominated my mind one night two years ago as I lay in my bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and a sleepy Yorkie at the foot. This wasn’t one of those self-denigrating moments I engage in when I internally chastise myself for not writing enough that day or holding my temper tighter, or not giving one of my journalism students much-needed grace under the pressure they face to prepare for an industry that asks them to do everything at once masterfully. No, this was a true thought experiment to force myself to fully identify the things I’ve gotten right in my life as a way of charting a course to build on something righteous...

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