On July 19th, 2005, 16-year-old Mahmoud Asgari bowed his head. The crowd that stood watching him rustled. He could not see them. All he could see was the color of the dirty rag that covered his eyes. He waited. He felt the warmth of his companion, 18-year-old Ayaz Marhoni, next to him. Their fingers brushed for the slightest second. The executioner pulled the lever, and they died. These two teenagers were victims of prejudice and hate long before their lives came to an end. Asgari and Marhoni, young Iranians, were murdered for being homosexual, just like thousands before them (Donnellan). These teens chose to stand for their rights, and attempt to break the chains that Iranian society has placed for centuries. But while death penalties ravage thousands in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, prejudices even occur right here in the land of the free. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people are discriminated against in many ways all over the world. They, like Mahmoud and Ayaz, deserve equality.
The history of homosexuality is a long one. It was found in many parts of the world as early as the time of Ancient Greece. In fact, the term “lesbian” is derived from the Greek island of Lesbos, where the great female poet, Sappho, wrote love poems to her female students and peers. In Ancient Japan, many respected homosexual behavior, especially from the year 800 to about 1800. This was because a prominent Japanese leader and warrior once
identified as gay, and so it became a craze. The word, “ninja” in Japanese, was actually a name for a warrior’s male lover (Williams and Retter xxv).
In the United States, the history of homosexuality has been a hard, struggling one. In the Witch Trials of the mid-1600s, many gays and lesbians were persecuted as witches, just because people did not understand them. Gradually, as laws were laid, and it was stated, “all men are created equal”, homosexuality became more accepted throughout American history (Williams and Retter xxiv). However, no other event was more destructive to gay society than the White Night raids of the 1970s. Mainly occurring in California, these deadly riots all began with the death of Harvey Milk. Milk was a gay politician, living in the Castro of San Francisco. His campaign for gay rights was very controversial in the mid-70s (Williams and Retter 148). When Milk became city supervisor, he supported not only the gays, but also supported many issues that bettered society. The mayor backed him, and so did San Francisco. However, Milk was assassinated on November 28th, 1978, just for being gay. The man who shot him, previous supervisor Dan White, was rumored to have been gay himself. White received the minimum sentence because of a “chemical imbalance from eating too much junk food”. His sentence sparked the White Night riots, the most gruesome gay killings in all of American history. Police destroyed gay bars and beat homosexuals to death with nightsticks. The homosexual community fought back, struggling to shatter the chains that held them down (Black).
One reason for discrimination against homosexuals is religion. Many religions state that homosexuality is wrong, and that it is sinful. Catholics believe that homosexuals are
sinners. Some even believe that being gay is a mental illness (Williams and Retter 180). In
fact, it was listed as a mental disease until the 1970s (Schwartz). Catholics have been known to feel this strongly, because of their beliefs that homosexuals knowingly reject God’s word, and disobey His authority (“What’s Wrong”). In 1998, 22-year-old Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming for “coming on” to another student. The murderers stated that it wasn’t right to be gay, and that was their reason for killing him. His murder caused a national outcry, and many Catholics began to rethink their ideas on homosexuality (Williams and Retter 259). Another religion that says homosexuality is wrong is Islam, however, the consequences of gay acts in this religion are far worse than those mentioned in Catholicism. The “Shari’ a”, or book of Islamic Law, states that homosexuality of any kind is punishable by death. This death penalty exists in almost all of the Middle East, and in some parts of Africa. The country that is most largely responsible for these gay killings is Iran. Iran holds the record for the number of people murdered for homosexual acts. The Iranian government has killed 4,000 people for this offense since 1979, along with Mahmoud Asgari, and Ayaz Marhoni. The majority of people killed for gay acts are publicly mutilated and gruesomely killed as a warning to others. One example is the story of two lesbian women and three gay men that were publicly beheaded in 2007. Another example is that of a 19-year-old male who was accused of homosexuality in 2002. Authorities threatened his family, giving them a choice: the government could kill the family off one by one, or the
family themselves could murder their son. The family emerged from the barricaded home one day later: the father stated that he had hanged his son to save his family (Donnellan).
While religions truly believe that “gay is wrong”, many people wonder if homosexuals have a choice. Genetic research has come a long way in deciphering if
gays have a choice, or are born that way. In the 1990s, a gene was discovered that could be the cause of homosexuality. Scientists are still working to decipher all of their theories on these genes. In the meantime, many specialists have interesting theories for the causes of homosexuality. Some think that it may have something to do with a mother moving to a different environment before or during conception that causes a chemical change to occur in her womb. One experiment that was completed resulted in some strange new information: A mother is more likely to have a gay child if she has given birth to a male child before. Scientists are currently investigating the X- and Y-chromosomes to see if they have anything to do with it. Although most scientists believe that homosexuality is not a choice, there are some that still think that it is. There is one thing that scientists definitely agree on, however. Sexual orientation cannot be caused by just one factor, but many. Although there is no definite evidence, scientists seem to carry the same belief that it is not a choice, and have come closer to finding out for sure (Schwartz).
Because homosexuals are not entirely understood, they are discriminated against in many ways. For example, gays are not allowed to marry in many parts of the world. Some believe that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is currently not recognized by the federal government or by the IRS, and, as of 2004, 39 out of 50 states had a ban on gay marriage. Very few states support gay marriage currently. The most recent is Iowa, which ruled for the allowance of it on April 3rd, 2009. Although some states do not allow gay marriage, some do allow civil unions, which allow the same rights to gay couples without technically calling it a marriage (“What’s Wrong”). Another right that gays have been discriminated against in is adoption. Many adoption agencies do not allow
gay parenting because of the “emotional and mental strain” on the adopted child (Gilgoff). The Bible also states that children are not to be brought up under gay parents. Some adoption centers do allow it, however. This is good, because 60% of applications to adoption agencies are sent form homosexuals. However, in 1992, Colorado’s Amendment 2 was passed, preventing any laws banning discrimination against gays and denying them protection against discrimination. This Amendment was eventually vetoed by the Romer vs. Evans Supreme Court case (Gomes). Amendment 2 was further set back in 2007, when a bill was introduced ensuring equal rights in the workplace for gays and lesbians (Pearson Education). Very slowly, America is realizing that gay rights are important.
Who is to say that Americans, of all people, are not allowed to fall in love with whomever they want? America is about freedom. Since it’s conception, the idea and icon of America is that beautiful eagle, wings outstretched, representing the oppressed that have risen above their trials and soared. Homosexuals do not deserve the inequality that is thrown on them. If God made all and loved all, then why do people take it upon themselves to tell others that “gay is not good”? Instead of showing hate, America should show love and acceptance. During the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up for the rights of his fellow man. He would do the same again today for the Gay Rights movement if he were not killed for what he believed in. Gay discrimination is slavery. America should be ready to break the chains that were imposed on their fellow man. Wake up, America, and wake up, world. This inequality does not make any sense.
Black, Dustin Lance, MILK. Gus Van Sant, Sony Pictures. San Francisco, CA. DVD. 2008.
Donnellan, Dave "Iran Hangs To Gay Teens: Protest." Indymedia Ireland. 19 Jul. 2006 .
Gilgoff, Dan “The Rise of the Gay Family”. US News & World Report. 24 May 2004. 40. eLibrary. Proquest CSA. Gibbs High School. 7 Apr 2009 .
Gomes, Charlene “Parents as Parents: Challenges Faced By Gays Denied Marriage.” Humanist. 1 Nov 2003. 14. eLibrary. Proquest CSA. Gibbs High School. 7 Apr. 2009 .
Pearson Education The American Gay Rights Movement: A Timeline. Infoplease.com. 2005 .
Sanchez, Julian “All Happy Families.” Reason. 1 Aug 2005. 30. eLibrary. Proquest CSA. Gibbs High School. 7 Apr. 2009 .
Schwartz, Allan N. "Being Gay: A Lifestyle Choice?" Mentalhelp.net. 16 Aug. 2006. 2 Apr. 2009 .
“What’s Wrong With Being Gay? Homosexual Behavior Against The Bible.” Christian Answers. 28 Oct. 2003. 2 Apr. 2009 .
Williams, Walter L. and Yolanda Retter, ed. Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.