Room For All?

We here in Seattle like to consider ourselves to be a progressive, open-minded bunch. On principle we try and make certain that everyone’s rights are protected and all are free to express themselves.  The other day, while on a walk through a local park, I happily came across this jolly bit of Acceptance-In-Action (neither of the photos below have been altered in any significant manner):

A Straight Man’s Piece of Machinery
Something A Touch More Colorful

I enjoy living in a city in which various and otherwise normatively-divergent lifestyles are not only permitted, but openly celebrated.  More so, I’m proud when such policies transcend people and enter the realm of construction equipment: after all, where but in a city that deeply supports gay rights can back-hoes be painted in such a lovely pastel and be adorned with that bracing fuchsia cummerbund?

There is, of course, serious non-construction-equipment gay-related news happening around the nation these days (and I’m not only referring to the impending Ricky Martin CD). The California State Supreme Court will be issuing its verdict any day now on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that banned gay marriage in the state. This past Thursday a US District judge in Boston ruled that the authority of local laws—in this case the decision of the folks in Massachusetts to permit gay marriage—trumps federal definitions/restrictions (specifically, the DOMA statute that defines marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman).  The outcomes of both of these decisions will surely upset folks and lead to legal appeals, the results of which will only upset other folks and lead to even more appeals, and so on and etc., until someday down the road the US Supreme Court will weigh in, at which point even more folks will be upset while options for additional appeals will be significantly lessened.

I’m not terribly interested in soapboxing here, but that jaunty little back-hoe got me thinking.  It seems only fair to show my hand on this issue: Until someone can demonstrate to me that in our contemporary civil society prohibiting gay marriage is not an inherently discriminatory action, I believe that such marriages should be not only be legalized, but celebrated as well. Opponents  to this position—they are legion and seem to include large numbers of people with whom I share genetics—counter with arguments about the sanctity of marriage, divorce rates, procreation and etc., none of which effectively addresses the issue of discrimination (though they are great at revealing the presence of Lady Fear and her snaggle-toothed handmaiden, Anger).  Besides, I think most reasonable folks find such arguments painfully unconvincing*—How, pray tell, will my straight-relationship be damaged, lessened, threatened or invalidated by extending the same marital privileges and rights to two folks of the same gender?**

For better or worse over the past couple years gay marriage has veered to the side of the national radar: what with the economy collapsing, the housing market being inverted and the country engaged in two wars attentions have understandably turned elsewhere.*** The upside of this inattention is that we’ve been spared untold televised hours of gay marriage opponents’ frothy-mouthed, hate-riddled invective.  The downside, however, is that the issue of homosexuals being discriminated against remains unresolved.

Like the many injustices in our society—race, poverty, income disparity, crime, the list goes one—this issue will pop up again and again until it gets righted (and probably for some time even after). At some point the national conversation will tire of discussing oil spills, financial regulations and seemingly unwinnable wars; it’s even conceivable that someday soon an entire 24-hour period may actually pass in which LeBron James’s name goes unmentioned (but only on national TV/radio, for such an outcome could never occur in that ego-maniac’s mirrored echo-chamber of a life). Eventually, be it through legal challenges, election cycles or some other occurrence the subject will rear its divisive head. At that point I would caution against expecting kind-hearted, to say nothing of rational, civil discourse.

As things currently stand I can’t see how preventing gay marriage is not discriminatory, and thus wrong.  Further, it seems that any federal or state law or practice that treat homosexuals differently than straight people should be changed. Lastly, it’s simply not nice.  If two men or two women want to have their union recognized by the government  and as a married couple enjoy the same rights, privileges and unending miseries that every straight person can thoughtlessly exercise, what’s the problem other than it’s different (and perhaps might arguably involve a few too many spangles, disco-heavy beats and cut-off jean shorts)? Lots of things we take for granted today were different not too long ago: little things such as slavery, women’s suffrage and civil rights, to name just a few from the past 150-years of our history.

So once again: until opponents of gay marriage can convince me that this isn’t discriminatory, I say get over your opposition. Let Bruce and Julian get married—hell, don’t just permit it but come to the party as well (seriously—what could possibly be more festive??) After all, if there’s room for both the yellow bulldozer and the lavender back-hoe, then there’s got to be room for two women or two men to enjoy the fullness of a life together.

* Sadly this statement is fallacious and misleading. ‘Reasonable folks’ is an imagined construct – reality demonstrates they simply don’t exist.  Further, the sentence is a rhetorical flourish, the sort one employs to imply the rightness of one’s own position, as in, How could any reasonable folks disagree with such an otherwise obvious and well-balanced point?  Were ‘reasonable folks’ actually to exist, I’m certain they’d feel similarly.

** Much of the tommyrot that emits from opponents of gay marriage has always reminded me of the fractious, terrified anxiety with which many Christians handled the book/movie, The DaVinci Code. I always thought that if your faith could be shaken or even ruined by such trite and un-factual poppycock then you didn’t have much of a faith to begin with, and its have being shaken or even destroyed was probably the best thing that could have happened to you, the act of faith and who- or what-ever it is you believed in.

*** Some of this is obvious: after all, who wants to argue about two women marrying when one’s own house is being foreclosed upon?  Some is generational—most of us Gen-X and -Y folks have enough gay friends to think that preventing them from marrying is utter nonsense.  Another aspect is the slow and gradual wisening of the political right, the smartest of whom are finally coming to realize that if they want to attract potential voters it’s best not to tell those very voters they’re less-than other people (a wisening that has been clearly and most noticeably absent in the state of Arizona, a state that seems bedamned to do all it can to ensure that Hispanics understand they’re not a constructive part of  society).

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