By striking down California's law that limited marriage to opposite sex couples, the California Supreme Court took a major step toward the formation of that "more perfect Union" that our forefathers dreamt about.
The ruling is a blow against marginalization, and stigmatization, therefore, a blow against HIV/AIDS. Black America should applaud the Court's decision.
It is by now clear that shame and stigma surrounding sexuality — whether gay, straight or bisexual — is deadly. When our public policies reinforce a social order in which some relationships are valued more than others, we push people to the margins.
When we refuse to affirm open, healthy relationships, we encourage hidden, self-damaging ones. And that's something Black America cannot afford. Many of our leaders are calling on a mass Black Mobilization to end the AIDS epidemic in our communities.
Central to that effort is a frontal assault on pervasive and a corrosive blame and shame paradigm that undermine AIDS education, prevention and treatment efforts.
As a community, we can no longer accept the plague ravaging members of our families. Study after study has shown HIV infection rates among Black gay and bisexual men to exceed those in some of the hardest hit corners of the globe. A seven-city U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found 46 percent of Black gay and bi-sexual men to already be HIV positive. And the toll is particularly high among young men: A New York City health department study last fall found that a stunning nine out of 10 HIV infections among gay and bisexual men under age 20 were among Blacks and Latinos — most of whom don't know they are infected.
Many different factors come together to drive these trends, ranging from the social to the biological. And far too many questions remain unanswered. One villain, however, is clear: Sexual shame and fear. And public policies that devalue loving, supportive relationships help spread these emotional vectors of disease.
Moreover, our nation's sexual caste system is not only unhealthy, it's immoral. "Homophobia is as morally wrong and as unacceptable as racism," the late Coretta Scott King reminded us. "We ought to extend to gay and lesbian people the same respect and dignity we claim for ourselves. Every person is a child of God, and every human being is entitled to full human rights."
From child custody to health benefits, our government denies those rights daily through intrusions into the family decisions of same-gender couples. They are denied access to more than 1,000 legal rights and responsibilities that marriage brings. It's an injustice carried out against a broad swath of society. The 2000 Census found same-sex households in 99.3 percent of U.S counties. And not just white people: 10.5 percent of those households were Black and 11.9 percent were Latino. And not just the couples themselves: 34 percent of the female couples and 22 percent of the male couples were raising at least one child in their home.
I welcomes the day when every state follows the lead of California in working towards true equality for all of our families.