Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Bracing for the Public Battering

An unhappy side effect of the recent California Supreme Court ruling regarding equal treatment under the law as regards marriage is that I will have to grit my teeth and close my ears and brace myself for the storm of absolute nonsense that will be spat in my direction in unavoidable public fora as a result. What I mean is that I have been perfectly aware for half a century that significant swaths of people in the US believe that I am immoral and lacking and undeserving of full citizenship in my own country because of who I am, but somehow I have never developed a thick enough skin to repel the sting of the barbs, particularly when they are hurled from institutions that are accorded a huge public voice and cultural respect.

Back up a few years to the beginning of the Clinton presidency, when the issue of allowing gays in the military was in the news. I used to wake up to the radio half of a clock-radio, as I'd come into consciousness to the strains of The Morning Show on MPR. But every half hour or so, while I was in a hazy semi-dreamlike stage, I'd hear the news. In that vulnerable state I would hear elected officials of the highest order in the country speaking out against me. I am so awful, according to representatives in the US Congress, that my very existence can destroy the cohesion of a military unit. I am so disgusting and abhorrent, according to the members of the US senate, that the government has an obligation to keep me away from others lest my pervasive ickiness disturb the fine normal folks of this country. The discomfort that some people feel around gay people, instead of being combated with truth and reason by what is presumably our leadership, was encouraged and abetted and given the full force of law. This is what I heard, clearly and explicitly and frequently, before I even got out of bed every morning. Does a full awareness that this is how people feel make it less than painful? It is not surprising, and it is not unexpected, but it is certainly painful.

I had to stop waking up to the radio, and to rely on the alarm only.

A couple of years ago, when the issue of equal access to marriage for homosexuals was in the news for some reason or another, I was listening to a talk show on public radio where the guest was a legal expert in the issue. I heard only a snippet of the show, but what I heard was a caller who repeated the mantra that the purpose of marriage is to provide an institution to protect children and to allow marriage for couples who are not physically able to produce children from the coupling would violate thousands of years of culture and tradition and law. There are several major and countless minor fallacies to this argument, and the radio guest began by noting that we do not currently prevent couples who are not able to have children from getting married. The caller responded by saying, "Haven't you heard of miracle babies!". The upsetting thing here is that the caller sincerely believed that she had a point.

You could say that in responding emotionally to such comments I should just consider the source. The problem is that this woman's comment was no different from any other argument I have ever heard from opponents of allowing gay people to marry. I have never heard a single argument, not one even from educated and respected legal scholars, that doesn't boil down to some form of "because I don't like it". The disturbing thing is that the folks who feel they have some point cannot see that they make no more sense than does this woman who insists that the possibility of "miracle babies" even when a man has had his penis blown off is a legal rationale for forbidding same-sex marriage. In the guise of what they obviously think is reason and law they are saying (only and nothing but) that they think the idea of me being married to another man is so icky that we should legislate against it.

It's such a lovely thing for me to see on op-ed pages of the most respected newspapers in the land: Pure, obvious, bigotry. Directed against me.

A college alumni newsgroup I thankfully stopped reading years ago included a member who, in this matter, noted that gay people do have equality under the law -- they, like straight people, are permitted to marry members of the opposite sex. The notable thing here is that this man honestly believed this was an actual point, and an unassailable one at that! And this is what we are expected to respond to, either directly or emotionally: Unadulterated idiocy. It takes superhuman tolerance to respond to these arguments with anything but exasperated sputtering.

So far I've been unable to avoid two examples of what I'm fearing will come steamrolling along in the next few months -- and I have to admit that there is some improvement in the presentation by the news media. The other day I was watching some morning CNN news show in which their guest was a lawyer from the Human Rights Campaign fund, answering legal questions. The first caller insisted that you needed marriage to carry on a "blood line" and he went on a bit about his sons and blood line. That awful feeling in my stomach began to develop. The HRC lawyer simply explained that in this country we do not create a class of second-class children who have been adopted by one or both of their parents. The second caller was a woman who started rambling about various things, mostly how "they" have been so clever inserting all these likable gay characters in sitcoms so that people won't think that being gay is wrong but it is wrong. The moderator had to cut her off somewhere in her ramble and thanked her for her comment and asked the HRC lawyer if she'd like to respond. She said, very calmly, "No, I have no response". Which was perfect. But still: Do I need to hear on major news organizations the hate people feel against me? Is that what it means to be well-informed?

I also caught a snippet of Larry King (whom I despise, but I was flipping channels and saw gay columnist Dan Savage on a split screen). A man from something like the Family Council was going on about how it's just "better" for a child to be raised by a man and a woman, and how this has been proved. Dan Savage looked as annoyed as one would expect, and his response was a simple, "That just not true. Go spend five minutes on Google." He noted that professional associations of psychologists and social workers all say that a child brought up in a gay home is neither better off nor worse off than a child brought up in a mixed-sex home. So what's my problem, if the nonsense was allowed a response? Because the guy from the Family Council was given the imprimatur of respectability on a major international prime time news show. Because presenting "both sides" of an issue means presenting the side that's supported by professionals and studies, and the side that's supported by bigots. Dan Savage -- in the 30 seconds at most allowed him -- even managed to point out that there already are thousands and thousands of children being brought up by gay and lesbian couples and they deserve the same protections as any other children. So why does the tv snippet I saw still upset me? Because the viewpoint that those children are undeserving because their parents are gay is given such tremendous cultural prominence.

What the California Supreme Court did is good, although it's not more than the law and precedent requires. But I'm not looking forward to the months of disturbing public debate, necessary and inevitable as it is.
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