AR Judge is Civil Rights Hero Over Marriage Equality

Same-Sex Marriage
Thanks to twenty couples, their lawyers and Judge Piazza, marriage equality is coming to Arkansas. Soon: everywhere else!

Yes, giants do walk among us. I had the honor to meet Rosa Parks long after her famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus. Although she is very small in stature, I knew I was in the presence of a giant. At President Clinton’s inauguration, I was able to meet and talk with Nelson Mandela, and again I was in the presence of a giant although his physical stature played no part in my recognition of his status as a giant.

Same-Sex Marriage
Thanks to twenty couples, their lawyers and Judge Piazza, marriage equality is coming to Arkansas. Soon: everywhere else!

This last weekend a collection of giants appeared in my home state of Arkansas, and struck such a blow for justice that historians will one day say it was as a seminal moment in the humanity’s march toward freedom and equality as significant as Brown v. The Board of Education. The Berlin Wall erected to deny same-sex couples from marrying was torn down for good in Little Rock, Arkansas, last Friday, May 9, 2014.

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An Arkansas Judge, Chris Piazza, in a lawsuit brought by twenty same sex couples, invalidated Arkansas’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Piazza said the law was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.” The State, of course, has said it will appeal Judge Piazza’s ruling, but in the meantime, the first gay couples in the old Confederacy are now married, and I predict bans on gay marriage will soon be part of our nation’s hall of shame in the not too distant future.

Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and do extraordinary things. Isn’t that what history records time and time again? I’ve read Judge Piazza’s ruling it is well-reasoned, logical and follows legal precedent, but its beauty is found in his reminder and reliance on the landmark 1967 case Loving vs. Virginia, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that state’s ban on interracial marriage.

It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice. The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let that beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.

Profiles in courage awards are due the same sex couples, their lawyers and Judge Piazza, who is already facing cries for impeachment. (That ain’t going to happen. If I had a hundred dollars, I’d bet ninety-nine on the Judge). More importantly, the celebrations should not be limited to the weddings in Arkansas, but should occur across the country for once again the human spirit has won out over those who would attempt to treat others differently simply because they are different. As Judge Piazza noted: “We will be stronger for it.”

Now that there have been giant sightings in Arkansas, perhaps they will make an appearance in Washington, DC.  Stranger things have happened. I was talking to my daughter about the decision and my belief that giants walk among us in the form of ordinary people who will rise to the occasion when that seminal moment occurs. She told me about a children’s verse that goes like this and sums up my belief in a nutshell:

In every ant there is a giant; and in every giant there is an ant.

Out of the mouth of babes.