It’s a banner week in gay rights. The California appeals courts determined that proposition 8 – the law that banned same sex marriage – violated the 14th amendment by discriminating against gay people. Washington state just legalized same sex marriage. A Million Moms plus Ellen set the stage last week in pop culture/retail, this week it’s about legal business. American is showing more and more signs of accepting gay people as they are, no closet required. For some of us Americans, this is a time of great celebration. For probably most of us, this is a time of looking at the headlines, smiling in approval, then continuing on with our day (since we didn’t have any plans to marry anyone same-sex). For some of us, this is a terrible blow to entrenched concepts of tradition and authority.
It is no news flash that many conservatives are not in favor of gay rights. The most vocal of these folks use mostly religious arguments to support their positions. If someone is not standing on religious traditions, their views around denying gay people the right to marry rest in distaste for the gay lifestyle and fear of the unknown – homophobia. None of these anti-gay positions have any legal ground in our Constitution. I’m sure any and all rulings will be challenged and re-challenged, perhaps all the way up to the Supreme Court, to try and get the ultimate word on if gay people can marry each other. Many court battles are still to come, plus we’ve only got seven states on the books granting gay people the right to marry.
The conservatives may have the Supreme Court, but even they can only contort and hold their breath for so long. Gay marriage is happening, and it will continue to be more and more normalized in our culture. Lots of reasons account for this but the biggest reason is that with more gay people coming out of the closet, living their life openly, more Americans are realizing that they know gay people, and that they’re just fine. Matter of fact, the gay “lifestyle” is so similar to every other “lifestyle” that it can be just as boring as a “normal” straight lifestyle.
Just follow a gay person around (don’t really do this, you could get arrested, just mentally do it), and you’ll find them eating breakfast, reading news, going to work, hanging out with family and friends, doing some projects, going to church, going out, watching t.v., doing their taxes …(yawn). Most gay people are not overtly flamboyant and confrontational, even with gaydar, you can’t pick one out in a crowd, and there are no sparklingly fabulous markers. As Ellen quipped last week, “occasionally you’ll hear ‘We are Family’, but that’s about it”. Sure, there are some outspoken LGBT activists, but there are outspoken activists for every issue under the sun. Mostly gay people live lives that mirror hetero lives in all but one gender-based department. If you think you don’t know a gay person, you are probably wrong, that gay person in your social circle probably just doesn’t feel comfortable being out with you.
So why this great divide? Why do conservatives buck this trend? The answer lies in authority and tradition once again – the top conservative values. The “tradition” argument is easy to understand, we have not seen the greater American society that embraces gay people for who they are. Conservatives are concerned at what this might look like, they worry about the “gay agenda”, as if there is some sinister plan to turn all of our children gay. This idea is laughable to progressives; is there a “hetero agenda”? Homophobia and distaste for a gay lifestyle drive anti-gay sentiment, but ultimately, the Bible is the authority that Christians quote to oppose and oppress gay people. Unfortunately for them, the Bible is not one of the founding documents of this nation. So conservative Christians have every right to pray, demonstrate, lobby, and express themselves around their views about gay rights, none of it changes the Constitution.
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
-excerpt from the 14th amendment to the Bill of Rights.
The problem for conservatives is that this gay stuff messes with the hierarchy of authority. Traditionally speaking it goes like this for a conservative Christian God is the ultimate authority (and usually represented as male), God sorta co-authored the Bible (so it is way up there in authority to, for some it is on par with God), clergy (also usually male and able to interpret the Bible for you) comes next, then a husband, followed by wife, then children, after that is all living non-human creation, after that is a lot of messy ideas and priorities. In conservative Christianity, men are generally given authority over women, the focus is on the nuclear family structure. Even in marriage ceremonies, many time the commitment between a man and woman are different; a woman is asked to submit to her husband, and all decisions are made by him. Conservatives reason that with one of the gender roles gone, who will submit to whom? Who will model traditional gender roles? What will happen to the look of American families? How will I explain to my children that other child’s two moms?
Tolerance for gays is growing because the population and all of the up and coming kids can tell that “tolerating” homosexuality, is not very inconvenient. It’s actually no more inconvenient than tolerating anyone else. Most Americans realize that if they don’t like gay marriage, they do not have to attend any weddings, nor participate in them. They also realize that letting Tom and Frank get married will not mean that their own hetero marriages are null and void. No church will be forced to perform ceremonies. No puppies will be drowned or anything. Homophobia will lessen as gay people are accepted and incorporated as their gay selves, into everyday life. Progressive Christians are continually making efforts to let homosexuals know that they are accepted spiritually, as Christians, just the way they are. As people share spaces and spirits with gay families, the fear of the unknown will subside. Only those locked into gender role rigidity will object to gay people being gay.
Celebrate our differences today, tomorrow there will be more battles.