Turning Point

Commentary: Center Field

I listened to my boyfriend Patrick on the overseas call as he tried to wrap his French-African voice around the unfamiliar word, ”Iowa.”

The gay community has passed a great turning point in our struggle. The realization came to me sometime between April 7, when I watched a YouTube video of Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D) refusing to help overturn the Iowa Supreme Court decision, and April 8, when I read reactions to the legislative victories in Vermont and Washington, D.C.

A cultural shift was happening before my eyes, and something I had been saying for years suddenly hit me viscerally: We’re going to win. It’s really going to happen.

If you don’t believe me, listen to the tone of desperation on the far right. The ”Gathering Storm” television ad by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has become an instant camp classic with its zombie actors posing as people harmed by same-sex marriage. Audition footage obtained by the Human Rights Campaign shows obviously untrained actors in front of a green screen struggling to read the teleprompter. When I saw one of the actors refer to ”a rainbow collision of people of every creed,” I thought she was talking about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference. The ad quickly spawned a Weather Girls remix. To top it off, NOM President Maggie Gallagher announced a nationwide initiative called ”2 Million for Marriage” with the chat-room acronym 2M4M.

Some on the right are all but conceding defeat. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas wrote on April 7, ”The battle over gay marriage is on the way to being lost.” As usual, he portrayed marriage-equality activists as seeking to destroy America. He bitterly rehashed several familiar arguments: denying the civil realm altogether by asserting that marriage ”was God’s idea, not government’s”; claiming that allowing gays to marry means anything goes, so polygamy is next; and treating courts as inherently illegitimate, as if they were not part of ”the foundations of our nation” that he purports to defend. At least Thomas was honest enough to rebuke marriage-equality opponents for not being similarly exercised about the heterosexual divorce rate.

On April 10, I was a guest on Mark Thompson’s Make It Plain public-affairs program on Sirius and XM satellite radio. He began by reporting that Morality in Media had issued a statement suggesting that same-sex marriage leads to mass murder. I said they must not be doing it right.

One listener demanded to know how Thompson, as an ordained minister, could support same-sex marriage. He replied by distinguishing between civil and religious law, and noted that John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (which filed an amicus brief against California’s Proposition 8), had made a strong equal-protection case for the pro-gay position. Thompson’s unscientific poll of his listeners went 80 percent for marriage equality.

On April 7, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) called the Iowa ruling ”outrageously wrong.” His prediction of a ”major movement” against what he termed ”judicial arrogance” sounded like whistling past the graveyard, and his claim of support for traditional marriage served mainly as a reminder that he is working on his third.

Also on April 7, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins responded to the Vermont and D.C. votes by saying, ”Same-sex ‘marriage’ is a movement driven by wealthy homosexual activists and a liberal elite determined to destroy not only the institution of marriage, but democracy as well.” Blogger Andrew Sullivan tartly replied, ”I had no idea that overwhelming votes in two legislative chambers was an attempt to destroy democracy.”

As with the torrent of ever-more-implausible right-wing attacks on President Obama, the old lies, for all the bluster, are falling flat. Straight Americans are increasingly accepting the fact that gay folk really do exist, that we merely seek the same protections they take for granted, and that the threat we allegedly pose is chimerical.

”That is good,” Patrick said simply when I called him with the news about Vermont and D.C. And so it was.

A key part of any successful, long-term struggle is keeping the faith. The burdens and the barriers we continue to face are great; but now we know more clearly than ever before that we are part of a winning cause. That knowledge is enough for this day.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist whose work has appeared on Salon.com and the Independent Gay Forum. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

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