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COMMENTARY: Separate but equal is never equal – ever

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s LGBT inaugural moment, however …

As happy as I was to hear President Barack Obama say in his second inaugural address: "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

I was just as unhappy to hear White House Press Secretary Jay Carney the following day say that while President Obama personally supports civil gay marriage, he doesn’t believe gay marriage should be a federal issue. To me, this says the present Administration has no intention of pushing for any more action to make any of his words a reality for those of us in the gay community.

Even though the President mentioned Stonewall along with Selma and Seneca Falls in the same sentence, he doesn’t really see gay marriage as a civil rights issue that needs to be helped along by the federal government. The truth of the matter is, no matter what President Obama may say, and no matter where he is when he says it – he still believes that marriage equality belongs in the hands of the states.

Do we really want the civil rights of a minority placed in the hands of the people?

Seriously, do you believe for one moment that blacks would have the right to vote in Alabama or Mississippi had it been placed in the hands of the voters of those states? Just go look at the pictures and videos from the 1960s in those places and you will understand that without the government stepping in – blacks would still be drinking from different water fountains and still riding in the back of buses.

The states that seceded from the Union in the 1860s did so because of slavery. You can try and spin it any way you choose, but one need only to read all their declarations of secession or take a look at their states constitutions to know the truth. Mississippi “… Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery …” These people were willing to secede from the Union before they were willing to give up owning slaves. Think about that.

Do you believe that women would have ever been given the right to vote if that had been left up to the individual states to vote on? As it is – women are still looking for that equal pay thing to click in.

One has to only look at what the states are doing right now to the rights a woman has to get an abortion. They can’t take that right away from her, but … they can make the laws of the states so rigid that no doctor or clinic can possibly follow them, thus abortions in some states have pretty much disappeared.

Look at a map of the United States and see what the states have done and are doing in terms of marriage equality.

• Gay marriage is legal in nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.).

• Civil unions are legal in eight states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island).

• Civil unions with some rights are legal in Colorado and Wisconsin.

• Gay marriage is illegal in five states (Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

• Marriage is illegal in the state constitution in seven states (Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Tennessee).

• Marriage or civil unions are illegal in the state constitution in 18 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia).

One should never place the civil rights of a minority in the hands of the majority – ever. The minority will always lose; history shows us this time and time again.

A civil union is not a marriage and does not offer the same legal benefits, dignity and respect as a marriage - just as separate but equal was never, ever equal. It was, and is, merely – separate.

You can talk the talk – but walking the walk while you’re talking is what will bring about change.

Our work here is far from done.

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.