Rearguard Actions

As Supreme Court considers Prop. 8 and DOMA, gays and lesbians finally know how it feels to be winning on marriage

To be honest, it’s daunting at this point to write about the Supreme Court and marriage equality because we’re in one of those cultural moments where it’s pretty much the only thing anyone wants to talk about. This is a good thing, of course, and it’s entertaining to watch politicians scramble to publicly finish their evolution on gay marriage before the Supreme Court arguments end.

Back in the old days, when the entire country would pay this much attention to a gay issue we were almost exclusively engaging in a rearguard action, fighting not to lose. That pretty much encapsulated the entire 1990s: From hate crimes to ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to DOMA, the lack of positive support for us meant we were always looking for ways to mitigate the damage to our community.

United for Marriage

United for Marriage

(Photo by Todd Franson)

During those times, not long after Hawaii thrust gay marriage into the national debate, I covered a community forum on marriage where Evan Wolfson told the audience that same-sex marriage as an issue was a tidal wave that would eventually sweep across the nation. It seemed a little hyperbolic at the time, but now, watching Wolfson speak out as the founder of Freedom to Marry from the steps of the Supreme Court at a time when the majority of the nation now supports our right to marry, in retrospect it may not have been hyperbolic enough. The rate of success, no matter how the Supreme Court rules, is astonishing.

This is how it feels to be winning, not to be confused with having won. For now there’s the exhilaration of knowing that we’re out front and taking the lead. We’re no longer fighting the battle on the terms of the bigots.

The bigots and the haters and the irrational fundamentalists are the ones now fighting a rearguard action, flailing about for any argument at hand — basically, procreation, and after that they have nothing — trying to hold back the tidal wave they know is coming.

And this is where Washington’s political conventional wisdom conspires to drive us all batty. Expressed in Tuesday’s Washington Post editorial, but espoused with great solemnity by most of the establishment, it’s the call for the Supreme Court to not go too far, to not press the issue beyond what the bigots might grudgingly accept, to not foist another Roe v. Wade upon the country.

This is horseshit. As others have already pointed out, the more apt comparison is Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that swept away laws banning interracial marriage at a time when the country was still riven by deep racial tensions. It took decades for most Americans to accept the idea of blacks and whites marrying, far longer than it’s taken them to accept gay and lesbian couples doing the same.

In an essay I wrote during those darker days of the ’90s (that mercifully went unpublished) I fretted that the violence of the anti-abortion movement would eventually reach toward LGBT people. I don’t believe that anymore; the strength of animus simply isn’t there. Should the Supreme Court decide to broadly uphold marriage equality, do we believe that fundamentalists other than Westboro will picket gay-welcoming churches? Will they bomb lesbian honeymoon resorts? Will pastors who perform gay weddings need security to protect them from snipers? Hardly.

The paternalistic concern of the establishment for placating fundamentalists may ultimately hold the line at the Supreme Court, although we should know by now that bold predictions on court decisions can easily become fools’ errands. But the truth remains: Today we’re winning the fight to move faster and it will be ever lonelier for the bigots on the rearguard.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him on Twitter @sbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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