Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bigots' Last Gasp

Though currently only Massachusetts recognizes committed same-sex couples as “married” in a legal sense, the political battle over gay marriage has already been fought and won. It is now simply a matter of time.

Like stranded Japanese soldiers lost in the Pacific after VJ Day, the only people still fighting this war are those cut off from reality, unaware that they’ve lost, and resorting to whatever desperate final tactics are left to them in their willful isolation.

Less than a month ago, the Oregon Legislature completed the process of approving a bill that, among other things, would grant committed same-sex couples “domestic partnership” status statewide, a parallel legal structure giving them all the same rights and protections as married opposite-sex couples, with the exception of the right to use of the word “marriage” itself. Governor Kulongoski signed the bills last week, and they were meant to be effective January 1.

Oregon, like Connecticut, has the distinction of establishing relationship protections for gay people without being ordered to do so as the result of a lawsuit. California tried it in 2005, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying marriage was an issue to be resolved by the courts. (I’d love to have read the email he received moments later from Karl Rove.) When judges in other states fulfilled their constitutional obligation to protect the civil rights of their citizens, they were lambasted by conservatives purportedly outraged by this affront to democracy. Adopting the phrase “activist judge” as a political mantra and promoting their theory of “strict constructionism” even as they failed to realize that an independent judiciary empowered specifically to act contrary to the will of the majority is one of the lynchpins of democracy, while choosing to ignore that gay folk have constitutional rights, too, the anti-fairness movement claimed that gay people were not entitled to redress by the courts.

Anti-equality court briefs on the marriage issue repeatedly stressed (in Washington, New York and New Jersey, for example) that the courts simply didn’t have standing on this issue, that marriage has historically been regulated by the legislature, to which the court should defer. (Washington and New York bought that argument.) But now that legislatures are independently acting on behalf of their disadvantaged constituents, desperate bigots are left to claim that no, in fact, civil rights should be decided by popular vote, demonstrating that they have no concept of what the phrase “civil right” actually means.

Predictably, a group has formed in Oregon to put this new law before the voters. Calling themselves Defense of Marriage and Family, AGAIN!, the group is attempting to gather the 55,179 signatures required to turn this into a referendum for the November 2008 ballot. (Hmm…isn’t there a Presidential election around that time?) This would also automatically put the law on hold until after the election, further delaying already long overdue recognition.

Marilyn Shannon, a former state senator (R-Quelle Surprise), explained to The Oregonian that the new laws “defied the intent of Oregonians who voted for Measure 36, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 that declares marriage legally valid only between a man and a woman.” It’s a flimsy argument, since the bills approved by the Governor and the Legislature establish “domestic partnerships,” not “marriage,” so it’s clearly within the letter of Measure 36’s law. But Shannon is right: it does defy the intent, which was to trivialize the meaning and dignity of relationships formed by gay Oregonians.

Arguing that the state’s legislature is controlled by “Portland Democrats,” Shannon said, “You cannot believe how upset the voters are that Portland pulled this off.” (The bills passed with a substantial majority, 34-26 in the House and 21-9 in the Senate. “Portland Democrats” apparently don’t represent actual voters, or maybe liberals only count as 3/5 of a person.)

How upset are they, and why? Yesterday I attended a Memorial Day barbecue with two couples, one male couple legally married in Canada who have been together for several years, and a lesbian couple, both educated, sophisticated professionals who’ve been together long enough to raise two daughters now in high school. What difference will it make in Marilyn Shannon’s personal life, how will her day be impacted, if these couples – and their children -- receive the same kind of recognitions and protections extended automatically to any heterosexual couple? For all intents and purposes, these people are already married. Why should Shannon care if the government chooses to recognize that simple fact?

Research shows clearly that public attitudes toward same-sex marriage are changing rapidly. What strategy will be left to conservatives once anti-gay initatives start failing at the ballot, as happened in Arizona last November?

Yesterday I confronted a young woman in the parking lot of the Beaverton Fred Meyer. She had a “One Man + One Woman” bumper sticker on her car, so I followed her into the lot, parked next to her got out and said simply, “I find your bumper sticker offensive.”

She was taken aback, and said simply, “Oh…sorry.”

Afterward I felt bad, thinking perhaps I had been unnecessarily intimidating. But then I changed my mind. I am not some abstract issue floating around the ether for random people to pontificate about on the back of their car. I am a human being. I am a tax-paying, church-going, voting American citizen. Just where do you get off advertising to the world that you think your relationships deserve government protection and mine deserve scorn and derision? Perhaps when people start to realize that gay folk aren’t just “out there” somewhere, that they’re in the car behind them at the Fred Meyer parking lot, when they start to confront the idea that gay people are REAL and have families and children and relationships, just like anyone else, they will rethink some of these positions.

Apology accepted.


Ward said...

From The StatesmanJournal:

"A coalition of social conservative and church groups are ready to launch a campaign to ask Oregon voters to overturn two gay rights measures recently enacted by the Legislature ... One is a domestic partnership law ... The other law will ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in employment, housing and access to public accommodations ... “We are offended that the Legislature voted to overturn the will of the people,” Shannon said.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but did the "will of the people" include the mean-spirited freedom to discriminate? The marriage bit I get (although I disagree that this should even be eligible for a vote). But do they really think the other bill was against the will of the people? I mean, how does this NOT amount to saying, "I demand the right to deny gay people employment, housing and access to public accommodations"?

How mean-spirited can you get?

Gino said...

"one man+one woman"

maybe she thought you were a muslim or fundamentalist mormon?

Andy said...

LOL. Doubtful.

Jade said...

Interesting reaction from her - I wonder what exactly she thought would happen by advertising political views on her car?

The Law Fairy said...


I think it's awesome that you confronted the woman. If she's going to advertise her political views for the world to see, she's got to be ready to talk about them. If she doesn't feel equipped to defend them, maybe she shouldn't go around trumpeting them.

Seriously, what do these people think they're defending? If they were REALLY true to the principles they purport to stand for, they would move to make divorce illegal once there are children. Hahahaha... I would LOVE to see someone try that.

Nope, this is a bunch of sexist homophobia. Heaven forbid we have marriages where we're forced to confront the fact that marriage is the union of two equal partners. Not to mention, you know, gays are just... icky.

I need to stop before my eyes roll into my head. Thankfully, this weekend I get to go to an actual, honest-to-God, state-sanctioned gay marriage (in Boston). I'm looking forward to being in a room surrounded by (more or less) sensible people who don't hate others to take the focus off their own failings... it'll be a nice change.

DJRainDog said...

Oh, there are so many things about the last couple paragraphs of this entry that make me SO happy. They amount to Andy stepping up. That's right, Andy; get angry. It's about fucking time.

Andy said...

Oh, I've been angry for a long time. So many people talk about "the gay lifestyle," as if being gay necessarily means having a life centered around predatory, frequent, anonymous and unsafe sexual activity. (And to be honest, I know some gay people whose lives are kinda like that. I also know some straight people whose lives are kinda like that.) But they think that's what "being gay" means. It doesn't occur to them that this person in the car behind them who decided to stop at the store on their way home from church to pick up some Diet Coke and cat litter is, you know, a [whispered] homosexual. And therefore they think that any relationship gay people form must be based on a mutual enjoyment of anti-social sex. They completely deny that genuine emotional bonds can form between two people of the same gender, to the extent that they want to make a formal, legal and permanent commitment to each other. It never occurs to them that gay people are just like straight people; we have jobs and lives and go to the grocery store. I am tired of being accused of behaviors of which I'm not guilty in order to be a scapegoat for straight people who can't keep their marriages together.

DJRainDog said...

It also does not occur to them to think far enough to realise that some of those people who enjoy "anti-social sex" (I'm going to have to think more on this terminology, as I certainly have a history of involvement with at least some of what you're describing here, and I'm working on Figuring It Out) pursue it BECAUSE they've been so alienated by the stereotyping and vilification and scapegoating. Human psychology is a complex beastie.

Elizabeth said...

Perhaps the woman in the parking lot will think about the issue because you made it personal. I know that my attitudes didn't change until I got to know a lesbian as a friend first, and then found out she was a lesbian. I couldn't square my ideas of what gay folks were with what was right in front of me so I changed my pre-conceived notions. If you should care to read about my own transformation, it's part of a longer autobiographical post (that's only one part of three!) here:

Anonymous said...

Good for you. Good for humanity.


Jade said...

Andy... And therefore they think that any relationship gay people form must be based on a mutual enjoyment of anti-social sex. They completely deny that genuine emotional bonds can form between two people of the same gender

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a very good friend of mine from a scifi forum. She's a midwestern, very conservative Christian... anyway we were chatting one night via IM and the subject of gay marriage came up, and I said I was all for it. She says to me, "Buy why change the laws? They don't want to get married, do they? Isn't that why they are gay?"

I was astounded by this... and it struck me not as prejudice, but as honest ignorance.

So I wonder to myself, where do they come up with this thought? We have the news with gay couples with signs wanting to get married, it's obvious to me they want to make a commitment - We have shows like Will & Grace with all it's relationship ups and downs - how can people still believe that being gay equates to anonymous sex?

And it just struck me this morning... "maybe they read that old book" And this foggy memory came back to me...

When I was in grade school my friend's parents had one of those sex books (I want to say "The Joy of Sex" but I could be wrong) It was a very old book - anyway being giggly pre-teens we would flip through the pages and laugh at the frank discussions they have about things. I recall looking up gay sex in the book and it described a scene where a gay man (and it was only men, apparently) goes into a place like a bowling alley, goes into a bathroom stall, and sits and waits. If someone occupies the stall next to him, then he slides his foot over towards the dividing wall as a signal that he is gay and looking for sex. If the man in the next stall moves his foot over to touch the first man's... that means he understands the signal and they run off and have sex (or have it right there, I can't remember)

As I recall, and again my memory is foggy, that's all the book says about being gay. I'm still confused that this is an overall stereotype given the prominence of committed couples in the media today.

As to my friend, I don't think she was denying that gay couples can have emotional bonds, I think it just never occured to her that they could - like, she never really thought much about it until I brought it up to her.

Trickish Knave said...

Obivously she did not want confrontation and with the craziness in the world I can't blame her for the knee jerk "I'm sorry".

I have had several political/social statements on the back window of my truck, tapped up on the back window because I change them out so often I would go broke buying stickers.

My favorites:
"Except for ending slavery, facism, nazism, and communism- WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING"

"Hang up and drive, Jackhole"

"We tried peace, we got Sept. 11"

My retort to the few people who have called me out on my statements is always the same- "I'm offended that you're offended" It usually doesn't progress any further. That's how I feel, if you are offended then it is your perrogative to call me out on it- but don't get pissed if I don't sympathize.