I wanted to share a couple reflections concerning the recent Prop 8 battles. Attending the rally during the Supreme Court hearings last week and the march & vigil the night before evoked in me two distinct emotional reactions.
Joining the thousands of diverse people in the march from Castro to City Hall was an exercise in solidarity, humanity, and even joy. Such events evoke in me a sense that all is not yet lost. The candle vigil and songs and a speech from a long-time civil rights lawyer who fought bans on inter-racial and inter-religious marriage not too long ago were moving. It’s times like these that allow me to “get my MLK, Jr on” and agree that the arc of the moral universe tends towards justice. Is it proper here to admit that my eyes tear up during such moments of solidarity and jubilation? I even got a moment’s reprieve from my sentiments towards religion when I saw various churches representing and even a sign that said “Mormon for gay marriage.” Other signs read: “First rate tax payer, second class citizen,” and “Queer Veteran: I served to protect justice and equality.” Yes, homos, heteros, moms, dads, kids, latinos, blacks, whites, asian, religious, non-religious held up there candles in unison as a witness to the steadfast belief that people are equal and justice will prevail. I even got a chuckle out of the signs that said, “if you want to stop gay sex, let them get married,” and “Joseph Smith had 34, Brigham Young had 55. I only want one!”
The following morning cast an entirely different glow. Alongside and mixed among the crowd of supporters of equality were those whose part-time job it seems to me is to stall progress, to denigrate a whole class of people, and who claim to stand for morality. Then came the opening remarks of the judges and lawyers being projected on the screen in front of city hall. They began by asking tough questions of the lawyers. It was not looking very promising. Further, unlike the night before, the signs in the crowd were not so benign. Along side the ubiquitous (and huge) “traditional marriage” signs were some of the typical boring and meaningless messages: “Love Jesus, Hate Sin,” and “A moral wrong is not a civil right.” But worse, the message “Dan White: Hero. Killing a Queer.” Yeah, that guy, the one who shot Harvey Milk and George Moscone right down where we were at City Hall. Maybe we ought to take a new look at who our heroes are.
All of it soured my day. The legal linguistics, the contentious signs, the lack of shared humanity. The un-necessariness of it all. One night, I’m an idealistic humanist; the next, a depressed cynic. (Well, that sort of defines every day for me)
I have heard one story too many involving the disappointment, the put downs, the alienation, and even the wrath of families, acquaintances, churches, and ‘friends’ of gay and lesbians. I recently had the not-so-wonderful opportunity of hearing one of the most hateful and vindictive diatribes from a family member (a mom no less) directed towards a friend of mine and her partner. Why should they have to experience this? It further woke me up to the battle we are up against. For whatever reason—whether it’s living where I do, having non-bigotropic family and friends, or simply not having TV or a Baptist minister handy–I have the privilege of not having to witness that sort of bigotry very often. But lest we be mistaken, CA is no bastion of liberal orthodoxy and progressive values. As a former canvasser of the entire Bay Area, I became fully aware that the cultural and political divisions here are quite real. I suspect that the same applies across the “Real America,” wherever that is.
Then I read this in the LA Weekly yesterday (March 11): That opponents of equality plan “to use the unspent cash in the “Yes on 8” war chest, which he says is in the range of $500,000 to $850,000, on more message-oriented research and focus groups to bolster the “Yes on 8” movement.
Because these people are hung up on differences they are going to spend that kind of money persecuting a minority. To make it worse, he refers to it as “war chest.” Evidently, they would prefer to spend millions of dollars and hours denying equality than actually helping people. Imagine $1,000,000 for those 1 in 50 children who are homeless in the United States? Or $1,000,000 for promoting peace. Or $1,000,000 for…well, you get the picture. Yet, this is what gets some people fired up and active and willing to send money?!
The really sad thing is that the colossal amounts of money, time, and energy spent on both sides of this is completely unnecessary. The time will come soon where there will be marriage equality for all, not just in California but across the nation. Yes it will come. The opponents are the on the wrong side of history. Unfortunately, they won’t ever accept that and a good portion of the population won’t figure that out until after the battle is won. Most will look back and think how absurd, unjust, or just plain silly it was to deny some people what others take for granted. As my wise Aunt told me (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing): “This too will get passed and stay passed – I think it just might be another version of desegregation in a sense. People didn’t like that, but it was the right thing to do. It got done, we moved forward.”
Like most cultural and intellectual (do I dare say military?) battles it really has to do with deeply rooted ideas and mis-education. The solution is–at the very least—better ideas, education, and humanization. And of course struggle.
It reminds me of the joke I heard where the man apologizes to his wife after a protracted argument, finally saying “I’m sorry, dear, you’re right.” She responds exasperated, “Gee, why can’t you just remember that at the beginning and save us all this trouble?!” We might have to update the joke: “a woman apologizes to her wife…”
I just wish we could learn that lesson sooner rather than later.