February 28, 2014

Remarks at the Equality Kansas rally by ACLU of Kansas executive Director Gary Brunk.

"The road our nation has traveled in the quest to expand liberties has never been straight or easy.  The Declaration of Independence boldly asserted that all men are created equal, but the Constitution condoned slavery.  As historian Garry Wills convincingly argues, at Gettysburg President Lincoln had to leapfrog back over the Constitution to the Declaration to restore the centrality of the idea “that all men are created equal.”  Even then, it was many decades after Gettysburg before we began making real progress in the struggle for equality for African-Americans, just as it took decades before we made real progress in the struggle for equality for women.   Today we can acknowledge that the fulfillment of rights of Africa-Americans and women has improved, but we still have a long way to go before we are near the end of the road to equality.

And so it is for other groups marginalized and discriminated against in our society.  In the last few years our country has taken astonishing steps towards equality for LGBT people.  I am proud to say that the ACLU has played a critical role in that progress, including our historic victory in convincing the Supreme Court  that the Defense of Marriage Act violated equal protection by denying married gay couples recognition under federal law.

We have made progress, but much remains to be done. Hardly anywhere is that as true as in our own state, where under the guise of religious liberty some legislators want to legalize discrimination against LGBT couples.

But this fight in Kansas is not about religious liberty, it’s about giving persons with certain convictions the right to impose their views on others.  This is, pure and simple, an attempt to institutionalize the tyranny of a set of ideas that increasingly most Americans reject.

Today, as civil libertarians, as people who are religious, as people who are not religious but care about working to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence, we are called on

  • to continue delivering a strong and persistent message to this legislature that we do not condone and will not accept discrimination in any form or under any guise;
  • to work in our communities across the state to help our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers understand how some members of this legislature seek to undermine, in Lincoln’s words, “the proposition that all … are created equal;”
  • to seize the opportunity of the upcoming elections to vote our values and to encourage others to do so.

We know what the long-term outcome of this fight will be.  Even in Kansas LGBT people will come to enjoy the rights and responsibilities promised in the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  And so will immigrants, women, African-Americans, people who are poor and others for whom the road to freedom has been too slow and too long.  Today let us dedicate ourselves to a new proposition, that our efforts can and will turn this promise into reality sooner rather than later."

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