I don’t like being on the losing side of an argument or a battle. When I was a youngster, I never believed all that “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game” nonsense. That was, and still is, an excuse for kids who aren’t good at tee ball to continue to suck.
I truly wish that those who look to stifle the gay and lesbian rights movement felt the same way about losing, because if they did, this whole national debate could have been squelched a decade ago.
On May 12, a federal judge struck down Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage. The ban was the result of a constitutional amendment passed in 2000 that looked to defend the American institution of marriage, but was nixed by the judge because it went “far beyond merely defining marriage as between a man and a woman.” In short, the measure inhibited the rights of gay individuals to a point where their involvement in the American society was hindered, so the judiciary tossed it. Bravo.
The passage of several “defense of marriage” measures during last November’s election doesn’t change the fact that gay rights activists don’t need much to keep them going. Victories like this — imposition of the will of a bleeding-heart federal judge is precisely what all this hoopla over Congressional filibusters is all about — can spark these activists, and keep them motivated for years. On the heels of progress made in San Francisco, and subsequently on the March decision by a San Francisco judge that ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional, the tides are turning.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont are all offering either gay marriage or civil union options. The 2003 Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas, right in the thick of the conservative stronghold, established the constitutional protection of consensual sexual conduct. Television is flooded with depictions of gay and lesbian characters, and large urban cities host popular gay pride parades and contain sizeable gay communities.
Better yet, as my generation gets older and the baby boomers begin to show their age, the battle lines are going to shift even more, as young people, even if they personally have hesitations about gays and lesbians, are almost guaranteed to be more tolerant regarding legal matters.
It’s funny to me that those groups who would look to appeal to state legislatures and demand gay marriage bans, and worse yet, contest the legitimacy of civil unions or the possibility of handing over certain legal rights to gay and lesbian Americans, cannot step back from the debate and see where they stand.
It’s well within their right to argue for and defend whatever position they choose. But like former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein right before the start of the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, do they actually expect to win this battle? Are they crazy enough to believe that they’re on the winning side of this thing?
It seems to me that simple logic and an understanding of legal and social precedent would dictate that the gay rights movement will not be stopped anytime soon. Forty states still have versions of the defense of marriage measure on the table, and a lot of these states have significant gay and lesbian populations. Given the historically established success rate of civil rights movements in the United States, gay and lesbian rights activists are not going to one day lay down their weapons and concede. Like the African American and women’s civil rights movements of our past, it’s only a matter of time before change happens. The hardworking individuals who lead these campaigns can see it, and the intensely shortsighted individuals who fight them never do.
That isn’t to say those hardworking individuals don’t really work hard, simply because there is a hint of inevitability attached to it. The fight is still an uphill battle, and progress isn’t being made in every U.S. state. Many states in the heartland will fight for years to protect their autonomy, citing their immense resident populations’ desire to protest gay marriage, civil unions and all the rights attached to both.
As the demographics of this country change throughout the next century, and as more and more gay and lesbian individuals not only “come out,” but also become more integrated with mainstream society, it seems that momentum is only building on the side of progress. There isn’t much that can stop this movement — perhaps only another massive national distraction like 9/11, part II is potentially big enough — and its direct opposition isn’t one of them.
I wish for the sake of those individuals who have to fight for this cause day in and day out that those on the other side could see that they’re on the soon-to-be-submerged end of a sinking ship. Regardless of where you stand, nobody wants to look ridiculous after-the-fact, as former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did after finding out that racial integration wasn’t that out-of-the-box-crazy after all.
I guess I never wanted to be on the losing team when I was a kid because I don’t like to be embarrassed, and in twenty years, I’ll be overjoyed when I’m not the one who just got slaughtered 19-2 in an unprecedented game of “civil rights tee-ball.”