“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Rock star Melissa Etheridge agrees with me: No taxation without equality. No one wants to break the law, but how was this country founded? Civil disobedience. How was Barack Obama elected? Because Rosa Parks and Dr. King broke unjust laws to serve a higher purpose. Sometimes the only way to do what’s right is to stand up against laws that are immoral, unjust, and just plain wrong.
Here’s part of what Etheridge had to say in today’s Daily Beast:
Okay. So Prop 8 passed. Alright, I get it. 51% of you think that I am a second class citizen. Alright then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.
Okay, cool I don’t mean to get too personal here but there is a lot I can do with the extra half a million dollars that I will be keeping instead of handing it over to the state of California. Oh, and I am sure Ellen will be a little excited to keep her bazillion bucks that she pays in taxes too. Wow, come to think of it, there are quite a few of us fortunate gay folks that will be having some extra cash this year. What recession? We’re gay! I am sure there will be a little box on the tax forms now single, married, divorced, gay, check here if you are gay, yeah, that’s not so bad. Of course all of the waiters and hairdressers and UPS workers and gym teachers and such, they won’t have to pay their taxes either.
Gay people are born every day. You will never legislate that away.
Oh and too bad California, I know you were looking forward to the revenue from all of those extra marriages. I guess you will have to find some other way to get out of the budget trouble you are in.
Much of the response to Etheridge’s blog post runs along the lines of “we must follow the law no matter what.” Obviously, people need to refresh themselves on subjects like history and civics.
Let me share a few notable quotes on the subject of the necessity of civil disobedience:
It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do. ~Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation, 1775
It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of obedience. ~Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays, 1911
If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable. ~Louis D. Brandeis
We cannot, by total reliance on law, escape the duty to judge right and wrong…. There are good laws and there are occasionally bad laws, and it conforms to the highest traditions of a free society to offer resistance to bad laws, and to disobey them. ~Alexander Bickel
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~Bishop Desmond Tutu
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait, 1963
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that every generation needs a revolution. The atrocity that occurred in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and California show that the time for a new civil rights revolution — an equality revolution — is long overdue.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling for hefty state tax increases. For those who believe in equality, the only answer is NO — not until all are equal under law. Rosa Parks broke the law. So did Dr. King. So did the American revolutionaries. So should anyone with a backbone and a conscience.
In the spirit of Patrick Henry, give us equality or give us death — we’re in prison already. It is insane to expect those denied full citizenship to give their loyalty and money. And yes — this is about “country first.” America is a rotten place for those denied equality under law; we should not be expected to be complicit in our “legal” diminishment. A nation that lives up to its claim that all are equal is a great one. A country that spouts platitudes it does not believe is a cesspool. Melissa Etheridge is making a move to make her country — the one that marginalizes and stigmatizes and dehumanizes her, her wife, and her family under law — a great nation. Right now, it is not. And remember, until all of us are equal — none of us truly are. If they can take rights away from people, one day, they can take away yours.
Don’t stand for it. Don’t pay the fare for a forced seat in the back of the bus. Do the moral thing. In the spirit of those courageous guests at the Boston Tea Party, it is long past time that we say: Enough! NO TAXATION WITHOUT EQUALITY!