Susan B. Anthony: More Than a Mere Coin

The same language that was used to deny women the right to vote is being used today to deny equality to LGBTQ individuals. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

~Susan B. Anthony

I am a great admirer of Susan Brownell Anthony.  Born on February 15, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts, Susan B. Anthony grew up in a Quaker family. She developed a strong moral compass early on, and spent much of her life working on social causes.

Anthony was initially involved in the anti-slavery movement. But, after being denied the right to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman, she turned her attention to women’s rights and suffrage. This became her life-long mission.  She started petitions for women to have the right to own property.  She and Elizabeth Cady Stanton created and produced The Revolution, a weekly publication that lobbied for women's rights; the newspaper's motto was "Men their rights, and nothing more; women their rights, and nothing less." And, she realized that no one would take women seriously unless they had the right to vote. 

She was derided for her activities and criticized for going against God’s will.  Even when thrown into jail,  Anthony knew and accepted the challenges she faced.  She never wavered; she remained steadfast in her efforts to obtain equality for all women until the day she died.

Shortly before her death in 1906, Anthony said, "To think I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel."   It was not only cruel; it was unjust.  It was not until 1920, 14 years after Anthony's death that all adult women finally had the right to vote.  I am not that patient.  I want equality now, not after I’m dead.

The same arguments once used to prevent women from taking their rightful place as citizens are used today against granting full equality for LGBTQ individuals.  And, equality seems so elusive.  In Illinois, the State Legislature could not come up with enough votes in the Lame Duck session to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  Despite parents, allies of all kinds, Mayor Emmanuel, the Governor, the President, and Illinois businesses calling and writing their Representatives and Senators, the Act died.

The same old arguments surfaced about moral degeneration, the importance of traditional marriage, and the abomination of homosexuality.  These arguments hold little credence now with the majority of Americans, but bigots continue to promulgate them.  And, perhaps the biggest bigot of them all is Cardinal George. 

Convincing his flock that homosexuality is a sin was apparently not working. The Cardinal has resorted to calling upon “Natural Law” as a reason to prevent LGBTQ individuals from gaining full equality.  St. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval theologian, proscribed that intercourse between a married man and a married woman serves two intertwined good purposes: to procreate and to express a deep, abiding love.  Accordingly, there is no other reason to have sex.  The Cardinal expressed this position in a widely publicized letter to congregants and urged them to oppose legislation that would grant marriage equality in the State of Illinois.  

I’m plenty angry about the interference of Cardinal George in matters of State, but I’m furious that he insults people of all faiths by attempting to impose this antiquated attitude on all of us.  If the Cardinal really felt that he knew so well what God wants us to do, he should have looked to Jesus Christ himself.  Christ said nothing on the subject of homosexuality, and that’s exactly what the Cardinal should have said—nothing.

Susan B. Anthony was correct; until there is equality, people are not taken seriously.  And, there is no rational reason to prevent full equality.  Discrimination serves only the desires of those who perpetuate it; it has little if anything to do with logic, reason, or fairness.  And, I have had enough of the self-righteous spin on why we can’t, as a Nation, treat all citizens with the dignity they deserve.

In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony's portrait on dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored.  But, she is more than a mere coin.  Her dedication and her sacrifices continue to serve as a model for us all as we propel ourselves forward to full equality in this country.  We must do as she did; turn our anger and discontent into action. Because, and I think she’d agree; equality is God’s will! 

. . . And I’m just a mom who loves her son . . .



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