Straight ayes against the queer guys
Anyone who doesn't believe discrimination against gays exists also likely thinks we've rid the world of racism. Leave it to the fiercely independent state of Maine to provide this protection in an evermore contentious environment of anti-gay hostility.
Gov. John Baldacci earlier this month signed into law an amendment to the state's Human Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill had already been approved in both houses of the state Legislature.
Naturally, the new law is already being challenged by those who see it as a threat to the American way (which I thought was all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but whatever). The Christian Civic League is heading a petition drive calling for a "people's veto" of the law. It's an underhanded way to sneak in another law that would allow all these queer folk to get married like regular people, they say.
Supporters of the law say the Christian group is just using scare tactics, which certain Christian groups use quite often. And effectively. The law simply offers to protect people from prejudice, they say.
My initial impulse, surprisingly, was to agree with the right-wingers. It seemed somewhat disingenuous for gay-rights groups to say, "No, no, that's the furthest thing from our mind. Who wants to get married anyway?? Yuck, ptewie!"
Gay marriage, couples recognized as legal and social equals of heterosexual pairings, is the holy grail of the contemporary homosexual community. But the problem with the Christian group's assertion in this instance is that before its passage in the Legislature an amendment was made to the amendment, saying it "may not be construed to create, add, alter or abolish any right to marry that may exist" under existing laws.
That, to me, seems to address the concerns of the anti-gay activists. Is it a big toe wedged inside the door? Sure. Is it the jack-booted kick that will allow fudge-packers to invade your home and sodomize your children, as some would have you believe? Give me a break.
Say one of these Christian Coalition folks comes knocking on your door to get you to sign this petition against the new law. But what's wrong with protecting people from discrimination, you say. She'll tell you it's a trick the homos are pulling so they can get married. You tell her, but there's that amendment saying it can't legally be construed that way so there shouldn't be a problem. She'll switch tactics and say there's no need for this law because there's no discrimination to begin with. You'll say, then what's wrong with having a little insurance policy? She'll say, homosexuality is an abomination and a sin. You'll say, what's that got to do with discrimination? Then she'll thump you on the head with her Bible and stomp out of the house.
What's happening here is all much more subtle than either side is willing to admit. Here's what it comes down to:
The reason these anti-gay groups are opposed to any type of legislation that protects gays is because, gradually, these creatures of depravity are gaining sympathy and acceptance from the rest of us. Every film, television show or news program that allows us to see gays as being human brings them that much closer to equality. Acknowledging them as victims of discrimination will encourage support for their efforts. As each successive generation becomes more comfortable with the concept of same-sex partnerships, and homosexuality in general, the closer they will come to equality.
And that just kills the compassionate conservatives.
I've said this so many times I know some people are getting sick of hearing it, but the day will come when gays will be treated as equals "” they'll be allowed to marry, to be Boy Scout leaders, whatever. We here today will be judged on where we stood on the issue, just as previous generations are defined by where they stood during the civil rights movement. Some people today are as opposed to gays marrying each other as they were yesterday to the idea of blacks and whites marrying each other. (Or eating at the same lunch counter.) If you give them this, it will lead to that "” and then where will we all be?
Ladies and gents, this is a civil rights issue. I've been told it's not, because sexual orientation is a choice, not a biological design. Fine. The faith you follow is a choice as well, but we can't be discriminated against because of our religion, can we? Is that not a civil matter?
In Maine, voters have voted down previous efforts to protect gays twice in the past seven years. But in 1995, they rejected an earlier anti-gay rights initiative. You've got to wonder just how informed these people are when it comes to casting ballots on such complex issues. I had a lobsterman tell me a while back he doesn't have a problem with gays, but he didn't like the idea of giving them special treatment. You try to explain that they don't want anything special, just the same as everyone else, but somehow you're not getting through.
Rhetoric is used in these kinds of campaigns to ignite your outrage, associating homosexuality with child molesters and perverts. Words are tricky things. I just used such trickery a couple of paragraphs ago, linking the Christian Civic League to the Christian Coalition because I know the latter has negative connotations for many people. I honestly don't know if they're connected.
If you're going to bar gay men from being Boy Scout leaders, great. But you might also want to outlaw heterosexual men from teaching hot young girls at public high schools. Or more importantly these days, apparently, straight women from teaching teenage boys.
The religious right is determined to keep homosexuals ostracized from society, believing the Bible tells them this is the right thing to do. You get the sense it's a crusade, almost on par with protecting the fetus. But when people are fighting against abortion, you can at least appreciate their motives. I mean, there is nobility in trying to protect life, no matter which side of the issue you're on. But to actively campaign against allowing people to enjoy the same rights and privileges you do? I'm sorry, but I just don't see the heroism in that.
But like it or not, their day will come.