That equality thing

It’s happening so quickly that I’m having a difficult time keeping track, but marriage equality has moved forward quite a lot in the past year since President Obama had given his support for same-sex marriage. Whether people support it, or not, there seems to be almost a sense of inevitability that it will happen nationwide, sooner or later, regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court this month. (Though if SCOTUS DOESN’T strike down DOMA, it will rather suck for a lot of people right NOW.)

National Basketball Association player Jason Collins comes out as gay this spring, and other than a lot of support, from the President, to other sports figures, on down, the reaction mostly seems to be, “Hey, no big deal.”

All of this worries me.

It seems that a level of complacency could easily set in. Moreover, when certain social progress takes place – lesbian couple on the cover of the New Yorker magazine – there is, most likely, a certain level of backlash.

I was listening to one of the podcasts of Arthur@AmeriNZ perhaps a year ago, maybe longer, and he, or Jason of 2political, was wondering whether the whole gay pride parade might be no longer necessary in certain places, such as in New York City. I would submit that, because marriage equality came to New York State in 2011, it is MORE important to do so. It’s especially the case in the wake of incidents such as eight apparent NY Knicks fans wanted in an attack on a gay couple in the city not long ago, part of a wave of anti-LGBTQ crime which I’m convinced is in response to increased rights for gays.

Regardless, for me, it’s important to have such events in places such as Albany, NY. At my previous church, back in the 1990s, I asked Lillian Johnson, who was a pillar of the church before she died about a decade ago, what activities of support for gay rights we ought to be engaged in. This was not a single conversation, but something I brought up several times. Her answer was always the same. “We did something about that; we had a speaker here in 1975.” That was, BTW, well before I had attended the church, in 1982, or joined, in 1984. I thought that having another speaker, or several, might be in order.

Whereas my current church has participated in the city’s gay pride parade for many years, has a rainbow flag hanging from the bell tower every June, and in the church assembly hall the rest of the year. The Gay Men’s Chorus sings in lieu of the usual choir the first Sunday in June. The church has an active More Light Committee. There is no ambiguity in the church’s values or position, and I appreciate that.

This article suggests that people who now come out in support of marriage equality are not heroic, because there are so many other issues that LGBTQ people have to deal with, and that is true. But if the marriage issue has become “low-hanging fruit” easy to pick, then I say, “harvest away.”

I told Arthur, who is “New Zealand’s foremost gay American-born podcaster, blogger and such like,” that he ought to write a book about the parallels and divergences in equality issues in the United States and New Zealand. New Zealand passed marriage equality in 2013, which he wrote about extensively. BTW, he responds to a comment of mine in the first four minutes of his most recent podcast.
We were having this discussion in our adult education class at church, and it was suggested that the mainline Protestants are PERCEIVED to be less vocal about justice issues quite possibly because it is less hierarchical than the Roman Catholic church (with its cardinals) and less bombastic than the megachurch folks. Noted because I LOVE this: The Rev. Kathryn Johnson’s pointed memo…to the United Methodist Church is in response to charges being brought against the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree. “He is facing charges in a possible United Methodist Church trial because he performed a same-sex wedding in New York City, where such marriages are fully legal. The wedding was his son’s.”
Great tweet by Evanier this month: “Donald Rumsfeld comes out against gay marriage; says if we stop it, we’ll be greeted as liberators.”
Amy’s poem, Queer
VIDEO: Same Love – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert
Cheri’s essay
Watch these straight people answer a question gay people have been asked for years

9 thoughts on “That equality thing”

  1. I was really, really involved with gay rights during my BS. People were very unaware how common homosexuality was and still largely viewed it as a very strange thing at best.

    So I’m having a hard time understanding why “It’s no big deal” is a bad thing. Isn’t normal… the objective?

    I think laws will probably pass more quickly if people have the attitude of “Oh, wait, our state still doesn’t allow civil unions/ gay marriage? Ick! We’re backwards!” And then they tick “yes” on the ballot to the initiative.


    1. Chris – your optimism is wonderful, it really is. But I don’t think that rational thinking has much to do with this; some folks seem to relish being backwards.


  2. I’m positively blushing at the all the mentions, BUT, I’m pretty sure that if Jason and I were “wondering whether the whole gay pride parade might be no longer necessary in certain places” it was probably to question the very notion—at least, it would have been for me.

    I share your worry about complacency, something that may have been at play in Illinois. But here’s something that worries me even more: Racism. The spokesperson for the leading radical rightwing religious-political anti-gay hate group seemed to go WAY out of his way to praise black Democratic legislators in Illinois for not supporting the freedom to marry. That same hate group, of course, famously said that one way to defeat marriage equality was to deliberately create divisions between the LGBT and Black communities. All too often, LGBT people buy the racist propaganda hook, line and sinker. And, it seems to me, some Blacks are too willing to buy the propaganda of mainly (or exclusively) white anti-gay groups.

    So, I’m wondering two things. First, what do you think can be done to expose the racist lie of division for what it is, and second, how do you think we can persuade the two sides to ignore the (white) man behind the curtain who’s trying so hard to sow racial division?


  3. Well, I think the people who relish being “backwards” would call it “traditional” instead. And I do have to admit, tradition is unbelievably comforting.

    I also think that there’s a big fear of being “backwards” that’s bigger in younger generations than older generations. That might change; the boomers became far more conservative over time.

    However, I don’t think so. I think a big defining trait among 16-40 year olds is the general association of old == bad and new == good.

    They also (correctly) see homosexuality as at least somebody else’s business and, more commonly, normal and not a choice. And that’s pretty hard to argue.


  4. I worry about this, too…there’s a sense to which people assume the fight is over. I see it with racism; I encounter people who are genuinely surprised when actual racism crops up, and it makes it hard to combat the more insidious forms of racism, like casting entire ensemble teevee shows set in large cities with no non-white people.

    I tend to think that hatred of “the other” is too hard-wired into our brains to root out completely, without evolutionary biology taking a hand.


  5. Roger, the uptick in gay bashings in NYC is a symptom of a wider problem: Just as Jews were blamed for all woes in Hitler’s Germany, so gays and lesbians (as well as undocumented immigrants) are being blamed for society’s “evils” today.

    The most vehement anti-LGBTQ members of Congress are mostly closeted gays. Check out “Outrage,” a great documentary.

    We need the NYC parade because of Stonewall, a “never forget” moment. I went to the City parade a couple of years back and it was disappointing, though. I guess Rollerena (the nun on skates) must have aged or quite possibly died. The whole parade was co-opted by corporations and it was all too commercial. I was in the City when the “gay plague scare” came out and remember the first, “sort of” organized parades, where people would flood the back end of the parade and head for the pier to party.

    We are headed toward a patchwork USA. Abortion, access to birth control, marriage equity… straight white males in positions of power are generally behind these things because they have the best health care in America and because, well, none of THEIR kids are queer. Yeah, Dick Cheney waited until now to “come out” for gay marriage, but GWB’s conservative Christian views kept him from sharing this info? As Cosby would say, “Riiiiiiight…”

    Until straights (we have all the power) raise our voices firmly and consistently, there will not be an end to DOMA and an end to the stupid anti-marriage equality laws on the books. Amy


  6. “Jason of 2political, was wondering whether the whole gay pride parade might be no longer necessary in certain places”

    The annual Manchester Pride weekend started around 1990 almost as an act of defiance against prejudice, while now it is simply a ticketed part of the cultural calendar. In other words it is a celebration rather than a challenge.

    Same-sex marriage has caused the UK government some angst of late, mostly because it offends many of the Conservative grassroots support (there is a distinct age bias in the opinion polls). And there is also some confusion over whether it is about equality of relationships or the legal benefits that marriage status brings. Most people don’t have a problem on either front.

    The big issue as far as I can see is with the churches and faiths that cannot reconcile their beliefs with the idea of same-sex marriage. The politicians claim that no church will be compelled to perform same-sex marriages, but I can’t help thinking that it won’t be long before this is tested in the courts.


  7. Roger, I think you are wasting your energy worrying about a backlash. There always have been backlashes to advances in gay rights and there will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I think the best way to look at it is that advance and backlash is all part of the process. All you and I can do is try to be reasonable and encourage others to be the same way. As for complacency, these days that only lasts until the next bad incident.


  8. “We stand for marriage equality: We don’t stand AGAINST anything, and we are not interested in attacking anyone,” said Scott Holley of Mormons for Marriage Equality. Holley’s church stood against same-sex marriage four years ago and was instrumental in passage of California’s Prop. 8.


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