History's Heroes

Commentary: Stonewall Baby

With the recent election, I was hopeful that Proposition 8 would not pass. A former Floridian, I might’ve cared more about their similar Proposition 2, but Florida has taught me not to invest much progressive hope in the Sunshine State. California, on the other hand, has a far better reputation and far more influence. When you look at California, you generally feel you’re taking a peek at the country’s future, rather than when you’re looking at, say, Arkansas.

But just what is it about same-sex marriage that compels majorities of voters to deny gay Americans full citizenship?

Some say they’re opposing same-sex marriage for religious reasons. But marriage, as a religious institution, isn’t at all affected by allowing marriage equality.

If you oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons, there’s a good bet that your church, mosque, synagogue or whatever opposes it too, and still won’t be performing same-sex weddings. Some religious institutions already support marriage between people of the same sex, and they likely already perform these weddings.

That’s not what this fight is about, no matter what anyone says. It’s just about civil marriage and the attendant rights and responsibilities. If we pay taxes, who is this majority to tell us we have no right to marriage? It’s just a majority flexing its muscle. They do it because they can.

Some believe that gay people are simply abnormal perverts. That’s an argument I can live with. If you think I’m sick and twisted because I’m a guy who sucks dick, that’s honest. It’s shallow and childish, but honest. Arguing, however, that the ”institution of marriage” is threatened if gay people are allowed to marry the people they love, is not honest so much as it is veiled arrogance.

The right argues that the left is full of cultural elitists because ”liberals” traditionally support public funding of the arts, even if that means a crucifix in urine. But what could be more ”culturally elite” than believing that your nature, your innate being, so epitomizes the best of our culture that you alone should receive state sanction?

If the government and so many other human institutions — from hospitals to home-ownership — made no allowances or exceptions for married couples, this wouldn’t be crucial. But marriage means so much in tangible, quantifiable measures, that denial of it to same-sex couples for the sake of making your own marriage appear more valuable is the height of hubris.

Whenever I come across someone obviously dumber than I am, I try to be grateful. How I would hate to live in a world where everyone was at least as intelligent as me. Life would be so much harder if there was never any chance of outwitting anyone. But if it was simply a matter of voting for the nation’s idiots who want to be brighter to be so, how could I vote against that? Could I be that cruel? Would I argue that God intended for me to be brighter than they, and therefore they’re not entitled to intelligence? Similarly, if some fellow citizen who votes, pays taxes, keeps her yard tidy and doesn’t beat her dog wants to marry the woman she loves, how could any other American have the nerve to say, ”Sorry, Pat, but I have to vote to prohibit you and Betty getting married. It’s nothing personal, but if even you people can get a state-sanctioned marriage, what’s the point for the straight majority of us?”

Granted, voting to keep people stupid — so that I remain smarter by comparison — is a clunky analogy for marriage equality, but it’s hard to find a more simplistic way to present what is already a straightforward case of unfair laws.

There are plenty of creepy machinations in the midst of our great society. That the funding of public schools should be set by local property taxes, versus an equal playing field for all students, is certainly one such case. That the military we have created to defend our country is filled on a volunteer basis — by those who need the money most, generally — is another cruel component. I don’t expect any kids who take the spotlight on MTV’s nauseating My Super Sweet 16 will ever be tromping around the Afghan hinterlands in body armor.

Do most Americans support universal service and equal education? Maybe. It certainly seems downright un-American to me that a kid in a low-income neighborhood doesn’t have the same educational opportunities — including the same computers, tutors, planetariums, study time, etc. — as his or her wealthy counterparts. Wouldn’t our nation be better off if all Americans served the country for some short period, be it through the military, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or some other national service? And if you had the chance to vote against just another way of making our country less equal, such as an amendment to your state constitution that serves as a big ”fuck you” to all gay Americans, why wouldn’t you vote against it?

The irony is that despite these insulting votes, it must be clear to all that GLBT Americans will one day enjoy full equality, from marriage to adoption to military service. People on both sides of the argument must realize that. Even P.W. Botha, while enforcing South African apartheid, must’ve guessed that Nelson Mandela would one day be president. And as Ronald Reagan supported that apartheid South Africa, he surely must have imagined that he’d eventually have an African-American successor in the White House, if he thought about it at all.

It’s possible to delay progress, but you can’t stop it. So even if we suffered some losses Nov. 4, we can at least feel confident that we’re on the winning side of history.

Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly‘s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists. He can be reached at wobryan@metroweekly.com.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.