Something is stirring, a sea-change is abroad in the land. It is a very exciting time to be an LGBT activist, and also a frightening time. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sodomy laws in the 13 remaining states that had them and overturned the infamous Hardwick decision. This has already been called our Brown vs. the Board of Education landmark ruling.
In the blessed and favored land to our north, the Province of Ontario started the ball rolling, or at least the gay wedding bells ringing, with other provinces following suit and the entire Canadian government expected to legalize same-sex marriage.
At the grassroots, people of imminent good sense are more and more speaking up for the LGBT minority in their midst, even to the point of electing openly Gay bishops in the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire, and in the Church of England. Unfortunately the Archbishop of Canterbury has intervened successfully in Britain, hopefully less so in the U.S., on the side of church unity as opposed to justice. But the sea change is still out there.
Inevitably, the Religious Reich is foaming at the mouth at our advances. Here I focus on one such bit of blather. A commentary by Mark O’Keefe, Newhouse News Service, appeared in the Ft. Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, on July 19, 2003. In it, Mr. O’Keefe writes, “Some [conservatives] see opportunity in a new battle arising from the June [Supreme Court] ruling: gay marriage. Handled correctly, strategists say, it could re-energize religious conservatives, putting them in a posture of defending heterosexual marriage instead of attacking the rights of gays.”
“Defending heterosexual marriage!” Wow, the power they think we have. OK, I am a single Gay man, and have been single since my “tragic divorce” ended a 10 year relationship in 1992. I would love to take advantage of my newfound sexual legality (thank you, Supremes!) and even dash off to Canada to get legally hitched. All I am lacking is a man with which to do these things!
But you know what? Destroying heterosexual marriage is not on my agenda! I don’t know of ANY LGBT activist for whom this is the goal. To be honest, straight people have been doing a pretty fair job at destroying the institution of heterosexual marriage, with divorce rates well over 50%, abuse rampant, and dysfunction seemingly the norm. They certainly don’t need us!
Mr. O’Keefe goes on to report that “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has endorsed the effort [to defend heterosexual marriage from us gay people], saying ‘Western values’ and the ‘sacrament’ of marriage must be protected.”
OK, first of all, marriage isn’t a sacrament in most churches and unless Sen. Frist is a Roman Catholic, he is seriously misinformed about his church (in fact Sen. Frist is a Presbyterian and clearly VERY misinformed about what a sacrament is).
Second, what “Western values” are we talking about? With the institution of marriage in such disarray, could the good Doctor/Senator from Tennessee seriously be suggesting that allowing same-sex couples to marry could possibly further damage an already dicey proposition?
Third, why does Sen. Frist and other right-wingers think LGBT people have such power?
And I guess, fourth, why does the Senator feel that straight institutions are so fragile that they are easily overcome by proud, honest, open LGBT people?
Since when do we have the power to destroy straight institutions? Since when is heterosexuality so flawed that homosexuality poses an irresistible appeal to the unwary? I have wondered about that with the perpetual huzzerai over role modeling. It seems that straight homophobes think, “We can’t let Gay people teach, or be Scout leaders, or be pastors and priests or especially, God forbid, bishops, because seeing out, proud, and successful Gay people would so inspire our youth to abandon their natural heterosexuality that everyone would become Gay!” So fragile is the allure of heterosexuality! Oh come on!
Maybe they are right! My friend Lawrence Reh comments on his excellent list-serve, “Our community could, some day, become as blasé about matrimony as some heterosexuals, but for the present, I suspect that committed same-gender couples are better marriage role models than many heterosexual unions which have resulted from peer pressure, parental expectations, unwanted pregnancy, or the perceived advantages in climbing career or social ladders.”
I think it is all very silly. Some religious conservatives seem hell-bent on policing the activities of others in the morbid fear that some one, somewhere is having a good time. Are WE having fun yet? The reality is that giving me rights does not mean that you have fewer rights. It simply means that we BOTH have rights. My being able to marry takes nothing away from my brother and his wife. It just makes my relationship more just and fair. My being opening Gay does not take anything away from my openly heterosexual friends. Nor would I want it to.
But that sea change IS happening, same-sex relationships are becoming more equal with heterosexual ones. To prove it, the Bravo network came out with a new reality marriage television show this week called Boy Meets Boy, in which an eligible (and rather charming) Gay man gets to choose between 15 other men to date. The only catch is that unbeknownst to the Gay hero, three of his prospective suitors are really heterosexual men and only in it in the hopes of catching his eye and winning the money. So at least on Bravo, gay relationships are being brought equal to straight ones, characterized by sensationalism, lies, deceit, and greed. I feel so equal now!
Of course, the Religious Reich hasn’t been heard screaming about what these reality marriage shows are doing to the institution, oh excuse me Sen. Frist, the sacrament of heterosexual marriage. Maybe because that is what heterosexual marriage is really all about?
Nah, my parents were straight and their marriage was rock solid and wonderful. Maybe they took their lead from Gay couples they knew, not hypocritical religious bigots like Sen. Frist or the current crop of reality marriage travesties on television.
If Sen. Frist and his cohorts in the Robertson-Falwell-Phelps American Taliban really want to end the threat to heterosexual marriage, they should turn their eyes away from Gay and Lesbian couples. Maybe we are more the solution, than the problem!
The fact is that well-reasoned law, not the pronouncements of bigoted church leaders, will prevail. It is important to remember it was as recently as June 12, 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court (in Loving v. Virginia) declared the miscegenation laws in Virginia and 15 other states unconstitutional. Before 1967 interracial marriages were illegal in those 16 states. Bigoted church leaders and even a majority of public opinion disagreed with the Supreme Court then, too. And somehow the institution of heterosexual marriage survived that!
Author, speaker and preacher Adam DeBaugh served the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches starting in 1973 and is a founder and former director of Chi Rho Press. In the UFMCC he served on the General Council, as Director of the Department of Christian Social Action, co-director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations, Mid-Atlantic District Coordinator, and on the board of its scholarship Fund for Overcoming Racism. He authored of a number of booklets including “Writing to Congress” and “The Least of These: A Christian Social Action Bible Study on Matthew 25,” distributed by Chi Rho Press, and contributed to the books The Road to Emmaus: Daily Encounters with the Risen Christ and Positively Gay: New Approaches to Gay and Lesbian Life.