When someone asks me, "are gay rights civil rights?" my answer is always, "Of course, they are." Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives: the right to equal treatment before the law. These are the rights shared by everyone. There is no one in the United States who does not, or should not, enjoy or share in enjoying these rights. Gay and lesbian rights are not special rights in any way. It isn't "special" to be free from discrimination. It is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship.
...People of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others. That, it has been, that our movement has been so widely imitated. That our tactics, our methods, our heroes, our heroines, and even our songs, have been appropriated or served as models for others.
...Now, no parallel between movements is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans who were enslaved for more than two centuries and people of color carried the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination; sadly, so do many others. And those others deserve the law's protection and civil rights too.
I am an openly gay man. But I haven't been that way for very long. I have had a boyfriend for three and a half years. I came out to my parents only five months ago. I was out to two out of my three last jobs. I haven't had much experience with discrimination. (Other than mistaken discrimination.) I'm sure that will change with time. I know that there are countless other gay men and women who deal with discrimination and hatred often. They may find it at the workplace, their places of worship, among their families or maybe from the populace at large. It can be easy to ignore it because it isn't at your doorstep.
It can be difficult to understand it. But imagine being denied a marriage license because you are blond. Perhaps you weren't hired because you are left-handed. Maybe you were denied an apartment contract because you were too short. Some opponents of human rights (I say human rights because gay men and women are human too.) will tell you that you have the same rights you do. After all, you could die your hair blond, learn to be right-handed and maybe wear heels. Most people don't even realize what rights they do have. Rights are so rarely taken away that we don't have experience with it.
The question remains, what to do about it? I am not a political activist. I do vote. I think the best that we gay people can do is to come out to people. When others know you personally they will find it harder to take away or deny your rights. It takes a lot of guts to be out to your family, your co-workers and friends. But it will do you good. For those of you that are friends and family to gay men and women, get to know us better. Invite us to activities with your straight friends and family. Understand that we are as human as yourself with the same strengths and weaknesses. We want to be respected, build families, and secure our futures. Every bit of your love, friendship and compassion is appreciated.
I'll get off my soapbox now.