Welcome to another installment of Hands and Feet highlighting folks on the ground and in the trenches, fighting for their families and communities.
Prudence Juris and I have only been friends for a short while, but in that time I have learned many valuable lessons, the most important being about patience. She recently penned this open letter to Maryland Delegate Tiffany Alston.
This is timely in light of the recent statements by Keith Ratliff, Sr. that there are “no parallels” between the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. Much of the NAACP’s senior leadership – National Board Chair Julian Bond, President Benjamin Jealous and Chairwoman Roslyn Brock, have actively been working to become more active partners in the struggle for lgbt equality. Yet, Rev. Ratliff seems to be unwilling (or unable) to grasp the ways in which the civil and gay rights movements are part of the same trajectory, particularly as many of us are active and invested in both struggles.
If, after reading, you feel compelled to share your thoughts with Ms. Alston, her contact information can be found here. I am sure she would love to hear from you.
Dear Del. Alston,
I am extremely curious about your recent vote against marriage equality in Maryland. My reading of your biography states that you are a licensed attorney. If that is true then I will dare to assume that you took at least a basic course in U.S. Constitutional law. If that is true then perhaps at some point during your course you studied the First Amendment, a part of the Bill of Rights. If that is true then perhaps your law professor acquainted you with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which is generally read to prohibit the Federal government from establishing a national church (“religion”) or excessively involving itself in religion, particularly to the benefit of one religion over another.
Following the ratification of the Fourteenthe Amendment, and through the doctrine of incorporation, this restriction is held to be applicable to state governments as well. So, if you are familiar with these laws and doctrines I am absolutely dumbfounded how you can stand up as a duly elected official of the State of Maryland and declare that you oppose (or support) a piece of legislation because it violates (or supports) your particular religious views? How is that not a state government involving itself in religion? Or even worse is that not the clear benefit of one religion over another? In case you were wondering there are many religions which support marriage equality for all people, including marriage between people of different races (remember Loving vs. Virginia??).
Furthermore, as an African-American woman attorney, I am deeply offended that you would presume to assert that you are more deserving of full citizenship in Maryland of all states. This is the state that stood in opposition to allowing African-Americans to attend its law school. Yet, again you would presume to stand with an oppressive majority. If others had taken a similar stand you would not enjoy even half of the career freedoms that you do now. You were elected to stand up for the law, and as a lawyer one would hope that you are well acquainted with what is the law.
This is so sad that you would stand in judgment because of your religious beliefs, I thought Christians were found of saying that your God is the only judge of things religious? So does this mean you are the Christian God? Congratulations!
African-American gay social justice advocate
Prudence Juris is a queer social justice advocate, creative writer of poetry/short stories/plays, a cultural worker and entrepreneur. Currently working at the frontier(s), generating active possibilities of expressivism and intentionality, building frames of reference for what we do + things that are still being dreamed up, creating language, building bridges.