On the Tuesday edition of NOW With Alex Wagner on MSNBC, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele exchanged words with LGBT activist and former soldier Dan Choi on the topic of same-sex marriage. During the discussion, which included author John Heilemann, Choi compared the fight for marriage equality to the fight for legal interracial marriages in the 1960s. Steele told Choi that LGBT rights were not the same as black rights. Heilemann jumped into the discussion and defended LGBT rights as human rights and Steele refused to acknowledge it, and claimed that race discrimination is different from discrimination against the LGBT community. Here’s the discussion between the three.
STEELE: “People have taken the view, more of a libertarian view, that the local communities need to make these decisions, these states should decide, and that’s where the battle should be drawn out as opposed to at the federal level, where you have a federal mandate. So that everybody has a chance to express themselves and the community decides ultimately where they want to be, and I think that’s fundamentally what this whole thing is about. Once you bring it to the federal level, then you start stomping on my toes because I feel differently about it — and I feel that I can’t express it because it’s subsumed into a bigger argument made by others who don’t live in my community.”
CHOI: “Since I fought for the entire of America, every state, don’t you believe that my love is just as equal as your love? When I come back from Iraq, I shouldn’t go to one state where my love is inferior to yours and another state where I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to my husband or to my lover?”
STEELE: “I’m not going to get into how you define your love. Then you take it to another level when you ask the broader community where you live to look at that relationship in a way that puts it on par with other things.”
HEILEMANN: “Michael, I’m curious to whether you think it would be OK in modern America for there to be some states where black men could not marry white women?”
STEELE: “First off, let’s just be very clear. There are a significant number of African Americans, myself included, who do no appreciate that particular equation. OK? Because when you walk into a room, I don’t know if you are gay or not, but when I walk into a room, you know I’m black. And whatever racial feelings you have about African Americans, about black people, that is something that is visceral, it comes out. I don’t know until later on, maybe you tell me or some other way. So, don’t sit there and make that comparison. Don’t make that analogy.”
HEILEMANN: “The analogy is perfect! They’re human.”
STEELE: “Respect the fact that I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think it’s perfect.”
HEILEMANN: “Legally speaking, these are immutable characteristics. You can’t help whether you’re white or your black; you can’t help whether you’re gay or your straight.”
HEILEMANN: “The notion that because you can’t change these things — they’re not behaviors, they’re not clubs you belong to, you can’t change who you love, you can’t change what color you are. Therefore, there should be equality around on a national basis. Whites should be able to marry blacks everywhere in the country because to have it to be otherwise would be discriminatory. Similarly, the same story with same sex marriage.”
STEELE: “In your cultural view, that may be acceptable. In mine, it is not. And race is a very different category of discrimination.”
Steele is very wrong about this issue. Homosexuals are human beings just like African Americans. And believe it or not, both groups have a lot in common. At one time in this country, African Americans were not considered human beings. They were regarded as livestock and weren’t granted rights until after the Civil War. African Americans have had to fight tooth and nail to have the same rights as everyone else including marriage rights. At one time in this country, African Americans were barred from marrying white women. Some in southern states still want those laws back on the books. Republicans are doing to homosexuals today, what southern states did to African Americans pre-1967. Two consenting adults should not be barred from marrying one another. If Michael Steele truly understood African American history, he would know what it is like to be hated and unequal. African American rights and LGBT rights are connected. If any group is capable of being sympathetic to the LGBT cause, it’s African Americans. Why should Michael Steele deny to the LGBT community what was once denied to his ancestors? The kind of discrimination that African Americans have endured is the same as what the LGBT community endures today. It is discrimination based on hate, ignorance, and fear. Discrimination based on hate is all the same, and every person in this world deserves the chance to be happy and deserves the same rights and equality that everyone else does. It’s too bad Michael Steele doesn’t understand that. But did you really expect something different from a Republican?