The Civil Rights Movement Of The 21st Century is underway. It began with the approval by the voters of California of Proposition 8, adding language to the State Constitution banning Gay marriage. In a year where we elected the nation’s first African-American President, I find it disconcerting that we as a nation still have a blind spot when it comes to the area of sexual orientation between consenting adults. It’s also ironic that this Proposition came from arguably the most liberal State in the Union; a State which has a large gay and lesbian demographic and for years had been at the forefront of civil rights for these citizens. In an era in which we all could be proud that one area of our collective American past has been overcome, we still have another important issue of equality among our citizens to address, and that is the issue of Gay Marriage and Civil Rights.
I’m very much a heterosexual, and for as long as I can remember I have always been attracted to the opposite sex…going back as far as Kindergarten, when I had my first crush on a girl named Erin. A little young? Perhaps, but I never struggled with my sexual identity unlike many others in this country (and throughout the world) have. I cannot even imagine what that is like, but to finally be able to accept who and what you are and how you feel about yourself and another human being for the first time in your life must be an incredibly freeing moment. It may also produce a moment of sheer terror knowing that because of your own personal sexual orientation, you will potentially be ostracized by friends and family. Moreover, you will most certainly be looked upon as unacceptable in certain quarters of society and not have the full rights of other citizens…such as the right to marriage, joint tax filings, health care benefits, and hospital visitation rights.
I have some personal stakes here. My aunt was gay. Although no one said anything (this was the Irish-Catholic side of my family) about it, it was just not to be discussed openly and even produced denial from at least one of my other aunts, and I think my Dad was a bit hostile to the notion as well. My aunt lived with another woman for a number of years who was referred to as her “friend” by the more unenlightened relatives. An entire charade had to be displayed at holiday gatherings at my aunt’s large apartment; her partner would leave the apartment for a few hours until all the guests arrived, and then she would come in as if she came from somewhere else to spend the holiday with us. Her partner was a perfectly wonderful woman, and even got everyone gifts at Christmastime, most especially the younger cousins or their children. The fact that this happened was a damned shame, because in some respect I think that is what my aunt felt for a long time, partly because of her Catholicism, but partially because of the unwillingness of some of the family to accept the situation. This is why she NEVER came out…not even to me, one of the most liberal and open minded of her nephews.
I loved my aunt dearly. She was an enthusiastic NY Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Ranger fan. She loved the WNBA most especially, and would go to see the NY Liberty often. The woman was a font of sports information, and watching a game with her was just a joyous experience. She also was an avid music lover, and much of what I listen to now (progressive rock) was started with her turning me on to The Moody Blues. She also got me into Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jefferson Airplane, Chicago, and Santana and so many others. She absolutely loved music; most especially the group Bread. That’s where her and I parted company (I always found them to be way too saccharine for my tastes)…but boy, did she have an album collection. The first time I ever listened to music over headphones was over her apartment…and this was before I got stoned for the first time!
She passed away at a young age (not even 60) a number of years ago from a congenital heart ailment that runs on that side of my family (thankfully my brother and I do not have it, nor do my children). After she passed away, she left a number of mutual funds and life insurance policies in her partner’s name. Although that relationship had ended, they were together for a number of years and my aunt maintained those policies in her partner’s name FOR A REASON: she loved her, and wanted to make sure that what little money my aunt had, in addition to going to her siblings and nieces and nephews, would go to her old partner. This was not good enough for my aunt (who is somewhat well off after winning a good chunk of money in the NY Lottery) who challenged the validity of the beneficiary status on those policies. She won. It wasn’t about the money, she said…and it probably wasn’t; it was all about sticking it to someone who represented a lifestyle she disagreed with, and since she could never do that to my aunt, this was the next best thing.
More personal ties: a good friend of mine from college came out a few years ago, and has been living with her partner for 15 years now, the same number of years my wife and I have been married. They own a home together, and have a life together. My wife and I knew gay couples, and we’ve gone out with them for dinner on a number of occasions. I always love going to a restaurant where they never expect to see a heterosexual and homosexual couple at dinner together; it usually produced some hilarity from our table, particularly if the Server is taken off guard and is uncomfortable with the situation. I never think anything about it if someone mentions to me that they are gay. To me, it’s just the way it is. I tend to accept people the way they are anyway (unless they are unkind to me or others), so why would someone being gay be any different?
More importantly, what business is it of GOVERNMENT to DICTATE just WHO a person LOVES and can choose to have a relationship with? It’s not the government’s business if my wife and I choose to engage in activities that could be considered “kinky” (and I’m not answering that question for you either!) and we’re straight…so why is it OK for government to prohibit LOVE between TWO CONSENTING ADULTS who just so happen to be of the same sex? Government can’t even run itself, it’s going to tell me or someone else how to run their own lives? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST ACCEPT ANOTHER HUMAN BEING FOR WHAT THEY ARE RATHER THAN WHAT THEY WANT THEM TO BE MOLDED IN TO?
Spontaneous demonstrations against Prop 8 have originated from California every single day since last Tuesday, with more springing up all over the country as well. This is not going to go away; and the Religious Right and the intolerant secularists among us need to understand this. This is not going to go away any more than Rosa Parks taking a seat on a bus did; or a march on Selma did; or a march on the Washington Mall did. This is not going to go away because PEOPLE CANNOT CHANGE THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, any more than they can change the color of their skin (Michael Jackson being the sole exception). There is still the right of free association IN PRIVATE, whether you are gay or straight. I’m certain many gays choose not to associate with heterosexuals in the same way many heterosexuals choose not to associate with homosexuals. BUT DO NOT DENY ANYONE THEIR RIGHT TO EXIST AND HAVE THE RIGHTS AFFORDED EVERY OTHER CITIZEN IN THIS COUNTRY. No one individual, institution and most especially THE GOVERNMENT has the right to do this. It’s amazing that the large movement that was at the forefront of Prop 8 and fronted a lot of the money for 527’s for it was The Mormon Church…you know, the same folks who brought you polygamy as a lifestyle. The same folks who were run clear across the country and persecuted because of their beliefs. It’s amazing what just a few short years of social acceptability can do to your outlook on other groups seeking the same thing you once sought.
How about this story: What would you say about a man with a wonderful message of brotherhood? He was poor and traveled among the people with a message of hope and love. He also traveled around and LIVED with 12 MEN. So I have an important question for you: what if Jesus was gay? Would that change his message and who he was? Would that change how millions of people believed or what YOU believed about who he was? Would that suddenly make it OK for someone to be gay tomorrow if we found out Jesus was gay today? Would that somehow make everything more acceptable, or would all of Christianity suddenly become one gay cult movement? Likewise, what if Jesus was indeed married to Mary Magdeline and had children (as is alleged in some circles)…would that make his message any different either?
What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do indeed.
I usually close with a quote, but today I am placing that in the more than capable hands of Keith Olbermann. Last night, he gave a moving and incredibly beautiful Special Comment on this topic. He said it better than I did or ever could. Please take a few moments and watch Keith’s message.