Civil rights aren't mutually exclusive
Someone should remind the four city council members who did nothing to help that image Tuesday, when they voted to defeat an inclusiveness resolution containing language against intolerance toward gays. The measure's sponsor, Councilwoman Valerie Abbott, rightfully was "dumbfounded": "I'm always amazed there are people who stand up and say, 'I'm against being inclusive.'"
How could such a thing happen in a city at the heart of the civil rights movement? One councilman's remarks were telling: "I'm concerned with the lobby for gay and lesbian rights that somehow or another this group insists on equating their movement with the movement for civil rights. This is not to say that their movement is not legitimate, but it is to say that to equate it with the noble movement of civil rights does not compare."
In other words, the argument is that the gay rights movement is somehow in competition with the 1960s civil rights movement. And that would be logical if there were a zero-sum pool of civil rights in which one minority group's gain was another minority group's loss. However, that not being the case in the real world -- where fair treatment of gays doesn't detract in any way from fair treatment of blacks -- that idea simply makes no sense. The rejected measure doesn't judge the comparative importance of the rights movements; it simply affirms that gays are people, too.
Abbott plans to reintroduce her resolution soon. Let's hope Birmingham's leaders get it right the second time around.