“Are you excited about Connecticut?”
While waiting to enter a radio studio for an hour of give-and-take on hot political issues affecting the LGBT community, it was a question another panelist found central. It was certainly of interest to the program’s listeners. But, surprisingly, I hadn’t given it a second thought.
On October 10, the Connecticut Supreme Court had voted by a mere 4-3 margin that “civil unions” are no substitute for marriage. As the majority opinion put it: “Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice.”
Good news. Connecticut had joined Massachusetts and California as states where the highest courts had chosen marriage equality over past prejudice. For the majority of those justices, there was no middle, separate-but-equal, “civil unions,” ground on the issue.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country the vicious campaign to eliminate the right of same-gender marriage in California was gaining ground. Polls were moving in favor of its goal — to amend the state’s constitution to add discrimination by eliminating the right of two people of the same gender to marry.
In May, the California Supreme Court had ruled by the same narrow 4-3 margin as the Connecticut Court: “that the California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying.” Then it turned down legal challenges of right-wingers to its ruling.
So in California Proposition 8 was the right-wing’s counterattack. It was supported by money from all over the US, the usual right-wing religious advocacy groups, the Roman Catholic Church, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the Mormon Church — which publicly endorsed the proposition and encouraged its membership to support it by asking them to donate money and volunteer time.
Declaring that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman, Mormon Church politics and prejudices kept its hierarchy defying its own tradition and resulting persecution. That’s how oppression works if you still expect prejudice to be logical, where have you been?
In Arizona, Proposition 102 would ban marriage equality even though in 2006 voters rejected a gay marriage ban. Mormon contributors were its biggest funders as were Catholics and other right-wing Christian and business advocates.
In Florida it was Amendment 2 to the state constitution. It was funded by state Republicans and sponsored by an extreme right coalition that included representatives of the Florida Catholic Conference and Florida Baptist Convention.
Activity around marriage equality was happening, but taking place in the middle of so many issues that affect everyone including LGBT people. Of course, that’s a right-wing strategy – to divide progressives fighting multiple issues all at once.
There was a presidential campaign that wore us all out. The Republicans continued to out-nasty the worst Rovian politics of the past.
There were state campaigns to wrest the Senate and House from the Republicans who got us into the current messes. We were holding our noses at times, because the best vote we could cast was for the least bad candidate.
There was an economy failing because of unregulated investment instruments that few people, even economists, seemed to know how to correct, but being bailed out with 700 million taxpayer dollars. There was an out-of-control healthcare crisis that will need radical reform to end the bankruptcies of people just trying to keep their families healthy.
There continued two occupations of countries who are learning to hate us more and more. And a world that has come to think of us as a disruptive force in their lives.
There was the lamest of lame duck administrations still ensuring that it has skewed government to favor the upper one percent of the class system as much as possible before it takes its money and runs. And, of course, there were the ongoing classism, sexism, racism, and heterosexism underlying our cultural institutions, sometimes, at best, covertly.
All of these issues are important to everyone including LGBT people, and they’re all related. More basic than whether LGBT people can marry is the fact that discrimination in hiring, firing, housing, accommodations, and basic rights is still the country’s norm.
Marriage equality has been thrust upon us and is an important part of the mix. And it’s only one issue in the midst of so many others that are even more bread and butter.
We recognize that we live in a society that is desperately sick with plenty of complications. As a patient, our culture is systemically ill. So what we’re attempting do is heal it of many inter-related diseases. And, as in all healing, that means there are bound to be setbacks as well as rallies.
The diagnosis is complicated. The healing proceeds by fits and starts. We know that there are many issues to take on. We see how one condition reinforces the others by weakening the whole system.
This past election was merely a stage in our struggle for health. No matter how tired, our most important tasks lie ahead. Certainly even healers need their rest — but that’s only to gather the strength for further treatments that follow up both on the progress and relapses.
So, that’s where we are now. We haven’t won or lost some battle in a great war, no matter how the regressives among us love war metaphors.
We’re part of a healing process for a sick, sick society. We’ve made real progress, painful at times. We’ve seen setbacks on many issues.
But the call is still to you true healers — you who have long-term goals, who don’t just do rounds at the patient’s bedside when there’s an election, you who will keep the treatment going.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.