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Family Law and Selma 1965 - 2015

Last night, I took the family to the movies to watch Selma. Having lived through that era with our own redneck microcosm of racist violence in Cobb County, including living in the same city as the bastard that killed those little girls in the Birmingham church, much of the movie struck a chord, struck home. 

I suspect that it is hard for younger people who didn't live through such overt hatred to appreciate just how overt it was.  Of course, younger people are living through Michael Brown with their hands in the air and Eric Garner's "I can't breathe" and all points in between where young black men are murdered just as coldly as Jimmy Lee Jackson, that young black man in the Selma diner.

I don't know that today's attrocities attract any more attention, either. Obviously, the press and president eventually took note of the terrorism that was a daily experience in the South.  Today, the coverage and attention seems to take the mock "fair and balanced" if not an outright hostile tone to the naked disparity between an unarmed man and a well armed policeman. Let me just guess whose going to win that one.

Back when I was a kid in the 60's, growing up in Cobb County, a black boy would get beaten to a pulp if he so much as talked to a white girl.  I guess it shouldn't surprise me that it took family law until 1967 in Loving v Virginia to end anti- miscegenation laws in the United States, two years after the Selma march and passage of the Voting Rights Act.  It still blows me away that our government had the hubris to legislate who consenting adults could marry. 

Now we look back upon that time in disbelief, like we had been living in medieval times. Many, many interracial couples have fallen in love, married and provided us with very important people, our present President of the United States being one of them.

Jumping forward to 2015, government still has the hubris to legislate family law on who consenting adults can marry. Only now, it isn't black marrying white, it's man marrying man and woman marrying woman.  I suppose the anti-homosexual animus isn't as prevelant. (Try to convince Matthew Sheppard) but the absolute denial of equal rights to homosexuals, the prohibition of them enjoying the same legal benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples enjoy, is Jim Crow, just with a different set of glasses.

When I wrote last, I briefly mentioned our trial last week.  In Dekalb County we tried the case that could very well make Georgia the 37th State to declare unconstitutional the denial of same sex marriages.  In other words, our case could very well be the case which makes same sex marriages legal in Georgia.

We tried it without fanfare.  We tried it without any undue attention. If the goal is the change the law, you want to take the most effective means to get there.

Our Judge has the case now. As he said to me, grinning, during my closing argument, this is like a Bar Exam question. He gets it.  I expect his ruling any day.

Dr. King halted his march across the Edmund Pettus bridge until he had federal court support.  So it is also in Georgia that the sea change shall begin with the stroke of a pen.

Pray for us.  Pray for yourself.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Whatever you do to help the vibes that be cause the waters to move.

As Dr. King noted from the steps of the Montgomery Capital:

"If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. He gave him Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. And he ate Jim Crow. And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion."

Discrimination in any form weakens us all.  Divide and conquer is an age old strategy that still works well. "How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

For us, today, division won't work.  We shall stand united. Jim Crow's glasses in any perverted prescription shall not bend our eyes away from the truth. We shall overcome.

Michael Manely

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