Posted by gustav at 03:01AM, Wednesday, December 03rd, 2003
As more officials around the country announce that they will start issuing marriage licenses, it's becoming clear that we can't go back from here. With powerful politicians too evil or terrified to back it, the tide of gay marriage is a true grass-roots movement, and I think it's only a matter of time until marriage rights are recognized across the whole country. Or we have a civil war. Either way.
Today the mayor of Nyack, New York, said that he, too, planned to start issuing marriage licenses in a few days. Officials in Portland, Oregon have solicited opinions on the legality of issuing licenses there. Despite the criminal charges placed on him, Mayor Jason West says he'll continue issuing licenses in New Paltz, NY. And, of course, there's San Francisco. Meanwhile, Massachusetts looks like it will have fully legal marriage in about two and a half months. Look around you; history is being made as you watch. If you've been in a pro-gay-marriage rally, or an anti-Bush one, or written an editorial to your local paper, or donated to a pro-gay cause or politician, you're part of it.
All this, at least partially, got started by two court decisions, one federal, one at the state level. But at this point, it's not just going on in San Francisco, or Massachusetts, or other (accurately or not) supposed liberal enclaves. This is across the U.S. -- New Mexico, Oregon, New York. There have been rumblings about Chicago. Gays and lesbians and those who truly support us seem to be quite tired of waiting quietly and patiently for elected "representatives" -- because there's no one in national politics who remotely represents me -- to take it unto themselves to do the unpopular but right thing. Very few politicians ever do that. The battle has gone to the courts, where we're largely winning. And it's gone to the level of local politics, where coverage by the increasingly-biased big media -- CBS, Fox, CNN -- is less important. This is exciting -- it's real government, grappling with real change and dealing. Admittedly, it may turn out that some of the licenses people are getting will be "invalidated." But the fight isn't just about that. It's about forcing inertia-laden politicians to truly acknowledge the problems we who live in the real world face. It's not allowing them to simply say they're pro-gay, and have everyone say "See? I told you [fill in the blank] was pro-gay! He said so at that press conference!," but forcing them to actually demonstrate where they stand by choosing sides. It's about putting the issues of the little guy in the center of national debate, even when those in power don't want that debate right now, so that the somewhat gruff, Boston-accented, super-Irish-Catholic, and very straight husband of my coworker starts arguing with anti-gay-marriage idiots in bars, telling them they're victims of church brainwashing; so that grannies and aunts in Michigan see twenty-something men marrying one another in San Fran and have to admit, well, they look happy and I don't see Satan dancing in the background.
The conventional wisdom from the more reactionary elements amongst the Democratic party is that we should stifle this because it's obviously not as important to "Americans" as the economy and health care and the war and whatnot. Only that's wrong. It's all part of the same thing. Marriage laws effect health care and economy pretty deeply, and if you claim they're unrelated, you either haven't been paying attention or haven't tried to get company-provided health care for your same-sex partner lately. Moreover, I think that those who would deny us marriage, by and large, are also those who would deny us, and the straight couples who live in our apartment buildings, unemployment benefits that we've already paid for, and economic policies that would revitalize job growth, and universal health care, and corporate responsibility.
Most importantly of all, this argument itself is intrinsically homophobic. What makes me less of a real American than anyone else? What makes me, by anyone's estimation, less of a real American than George Bush? Is it because I actually paid my way through grad school? Is it because I've paid some prices for patriotism -- the many chronic diseases I have, which no one else in my family ever had, having been linked for decades with a parent's exposure to Agent Orange, and my Dad having sprayed the vile stuff in Viet Nam? Is it because I have ideals, which I voice in demonstrations, in print, on the web, in the office? Is it because I try to maintain a consistent moral code, and change it as I am presented with new information, and try not to make exceptions for myself and those I idolize? Or is it just because I'm gay, and therefore issues which effect my life are deemed unimportant to the rest of the "real" America? Would the nation at large sit idly if all marriages in it were suddenly voided? Would anyone suggest that that was not a pressing issue, and that "the economy" and the war in Iraq were more urgent?
I agree, for once, with the Religious Right, that this is a pretty profound change for America. Of course, I think it's great. It's exciting to see the masses and a bunch of local leaders concurrently rise up and revolt at high-level government oppression all across the country. Those are the kinds of idealistic beliefs on which the nation was founded, not the waffling equivocation void of actual conviction espoused by the media and national politics. This is the real left's reply to the unabashed fascist activism with which the Republican Party has been flooding Washington. After a taste of rights and freedoms, we're not going to be good little quiet proles any more. After seeing how powerful and influential ordinary individuals can be -- the plaintiffs in Lawrence v. Texas; the 26-year-old mayor of New Paltz -- in effecting change, we are all empowered. We know now that we really matter, that we can really change things, and that we really can take back our country -- both from the fascists in power now (if you think I'm using an inflammatory term for effect, I suggest you stop buying into the party lines and start looking up "fascism" in a dictionary), and the reactionaries who hide behind the label "Democrat."
Be empowered. Rejoice in the knowledge that, despite everything "they" tell you about having to make small, timid steps which really end up going backwards, you can really change things. Maybe next, we'll all rise up for universal health care; after that, we'll go for campaign finance reform and breaking up media monopolies. We'll do these things because we can, and because they are right, and we are the ones who believe in our own convictions and act to carry them out. This is the power and beauty of the real America, the one in which people stand up for the little guy, even if they're personally not the little guy. This is the America in which the right thing really happens, right when everyone tried to say it wouldn't. This is the America that makes me happy to be its citizen, the one in which you can feel the change happening, you can feel the love and idealism and the newly-recognized power. Isn't that great?
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