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So fast, it’s hard to follow

Posted: Friday, May 25th, 2012
Photo by Mark Singleton

Photo by Mark Singleton

When the homophobic California law called “prop 8” up for a vote, it passed mainly because of two things.

  1. Religions dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay advertising in the state. The Mormons and Roman Catholics gathered up their tax-free donations and used the money to influence a political struggle for equal rights. They’re hate-mongers, and there’s little excuse for not taxing them if they are going going to act like political machines.
  2. African American voters came out in record numbers because Prop 8 was on the same ballot as Barack Obama, the first black president. At the time, people of color were solidly against equal rights for gay men and lesbians. They helped push the anti-marriage measure through. It passed with 52% of the vote.

Since then, there has been a shift in public opinion like I’ve never seen before. In just a few short years, support for equal treatment for LGBT citizens has grown.

There are three reasons, I think.

  • More gay people have begun to live their lives in the open. They don’t hide. They aren’t closeted. This is huge. Study after study says that when straight people support equality for LGBT people, it’s because they know somebody who is gay. Just living openly and honesty is the best thing any LGBT person can do.
  • President Obama announced that he is not going to challenge DOMA (anti-marriage federal statute). He says his administration considers it unconstitutional. It is. When I was a kid, people could go to Las Vegas or Mexico to get a “quirky” divorce when their home state disallowed the divorce. After the quirky out-of-town divorce, it was accepted by the home state. There was never a question about it: if you get divorced in Las Vegas, you’re divorced everywhere. DOMA says that doesn’t apply to gay couples. Rick and I were married in Washington, DC. It was a legal wedding that is recognized by the civil authority in DC. It is recognized by the canons of my church. It is not recognized by my home state of Texas. It is not recognized by the federal government. What happened in DC is supposed to stay in DC, and that’s wrong. If a straight couple had gotten married there, Texas would see them as married. I don’t have equal protection. Texas is homophobic and wants to keep queers in their place. That’s wrong. DOMA is evil. The Texas constitutional amendment that says two dudes can’t get married is hateful and un-Christian, but bubba likes to be hateful. President Obama started a change in attitude when his administration told government lawyers to stand down in DOMA cases. It’s more than a legal move. It changes public perception of DOMA and all the anti-gay hate laws.
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden and several Cabinet secretaries have said publicly that they support marriage equality. The NAACP (the largest group for racial equality in the US) came out in support of gay marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded some of the worst anti-marriage organizations as Hate Groups. They are! I personally am so grateful to the NAACP and SPLC for their action.

There was a time recently when I was building up a big resentment over this. I worked for equality for people of color. When I was a pimply-faced kid, I even took part in a march headed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am not a newbie to the issue of equal rights. The content of ones character really is more important than some accident of birth, like skin color. I’ve worked and pushed and marched and protested, and I never did it wanting anything in return. It was just the right thing to do.

Then Prop 8 passed, and it passed because of people of color came out to vote for Barack Obama. LGBT equality isn’t a “civil rights” issue, they said. Marriage should be between one man and one woman, they said.

They are wrong. What we have in the US is marriage apartheid. Heterosexuals can marry, but they don’t want anybody else to have the same laws opened to same gender couples.

And then came Biden… and Obama… and the NAACP… and the SPLC. Reports about bullying and gay suicides became everyday reports on the news. The military started letting gay soldiers serve without lying about their sexual orientation (and the effectiveness of the military hasn’t suffered). Cadets who are openly gay are being graduated from American military academies, and they are beginning to serve with honor.

Now the shift has begun. Latino voters have always supported LGBT rights. In the big cities, gay ghettos are often situation right next to Latino neighborhoods. We’ve been buddies for years.

The change is with black voters. When President Obama and Vice President Biden talk about equal rights and justice, people listen. When the NAACP goes public over gay rights, people of color — especially older black people — notice.

I am so grateful to them. I am in awe of Mr. Obama. He truly is the first “gay president” … like Bill Clinton was the first “black president.”  President Obama didn’t have to do such a risky thing as come out so strongly for equal treatment for LGBT citizens. It was gutsy, and I am so grateful to him. What he did was more than the occasional lip-service some pandering politicians have done in the past.

When I first heard about it, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I was wrong. This is epic. It is huge, and I wish that we could get all those suicides back to see it. I wish we could bring soldiers like Leonard Malcovich back to life so he could see that soldiers don’t have to lie in the America.

It’s going to be huge when my marriage to Rick is recognized in Texas and the other hate-filled South. But the real news will be when two women get married, and it doesn’t make the news except in the wedding listings of the local paper. The real news is when we have equality that isn’t a big story.

Leonard Matlovich grave
Matlovich’s grave at the Congressional Cemetery. The tombstone reads: “A Gay Vietnam Veteran When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one” Photographer: Michael Bedwell

Traditional Chattel

Posted: Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The day after President Obama said he supported marriage equality for lesbians and gays, his Republican opponent — Mitt Romney — said he wasn’t even convinced that a gay “partner” should be allowed visitation rights in a hospital. It wasn’t one-step-forward / two-steps-back. To get from the president to the Republican position doesn’t even involve steps. You need a car.

Mr. Romney wasn’t alone. Most Republicans, including the gays in the Log Cabin Republican group, have been against what Mr. Obama said. Gay Republicans are against this. They say the announcement was pure politics. If they want to see “politics as usual” they need to look in a mirror. They’ll be against whatever the president does, even when he says he supports gays and lesbians.

Politics as usual from the right says they’re in favor of traditional marriage. Maybe we could look at that. When the Old Testament was being written, marriage had a specific purpose. Traditional marriage was a civil institution in Israel because it gave the husband a list of belongings. The wife was chattel, according to the traditional laws. The wife belonged to the husband, and marriage was instituted for that very purpose. The wife was in the list of goodies that included the goat and the pots and pans.

And that’s what the Republican hate-mongers want? Every time I hear “traditional marriage” I have to smile. They’re ignoring what is actually tradition when it comes to marriage.

They might say chattel isn’t what they meant. They’ll say they only mean that traditional marriage is between “one man and one woman.” Maybe they stress “one” because their presidential candidate is a Mormon, and we all know that group has a history of giving polygamy a test drive or two.

I’ve been attacked by right-wingers who tell me that everybody knows Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. They want to concentrate on Christian marriage. Like Charlemagne?

Charlemagne was a great Christian ruler in Europe toward the end of the 700s. He was so Christian that he received his royal crown by the pope. He loved women. He loved them so much that he was married to at least 10 of them. Ten wives… mostly at the same time. Charlemagne fathered 18 children with the help of 8 of those wives. He almost qualified for a wholesale rate or harem rate or something.

When one of these latter day wedge-issue politicians mention “traditional marriage,” I like to ask which tradition. Is it the one where the holy institution of Old Testament marriage gave the husband lots of property rights? Or maybe it was the New Testament tradition of Charlemagne’s stack of marriage writs.

I also heard Mr. Romney grow tired of journalist’s questions about marriage equality and medical marijuana. He snapped at the reporter, asking her if she had any questions on “significant” issues.

We have a clear choice in the next election for US president. Clear indeed.

Marriage chattel versus marriage equality.

Dred Scott v. Sandford versus Brown v. Board of Education.