09 MAY 2012
President Obama made an announcement in which he stated that he has decided to back the legality of marriage for same-sex couples. There is resistance, the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage being a political football these days. There's a lot of backlash in the press and from the more hardline religious right; which ought to surprise nobody, some of them are against anything Obama could do.
Religious or political conservatives often cite various Bible passages
from the Old and New Testaments as their justification for opposing gay
rights. Regionally, opposition to the gay rights movement has been
strongest in the South and in other states with a large rural
population. The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS has used biblical
injunctions against homosexuals and homosexual acts as the justification
for a campaign against the United States and the US military, which
continues with picketing of military burials and other confrontational
It seems to me that we have more than enough instances in which people,
usually young female people, are forced or coerced into having sex with
someone they don't want for it to more than absorb all that righteous
indignation and holy activism; and that after we solve that problem,
then, if there's energy left and concern left, we can discuss why we're
worried about what consenting adults do to one another.
The President, in essence has said that he is siding with logic and with the direction of social thought in the country. And, of course, he is. If you go back a few years, to the 1960s or so, and you look at US law and sentiment, we were a country in which there was, in many jurisdictions, a tacit open hunting season on homosexual males (especially). Some people went out actively seeking gay men, certainly not using that term for them, for the purpose of beating and robbing them.
I'm not making this up. I remember, in Southern California in 1962, being invited to go along on an expedition to West Hollywood for the purpose of raising money by "rolling queers". There was some danger involved, I was told, because California law actually protected "them". I declined, and although I'm a well-known coward, that wasn't the reason...
I'd like to say that I was morally outraged enough to do something about it and notified the police of the planned activity; but that's not what happened, instead I backed away from associating with the people involved but otherwise did nothing.
I was young, I didn't actually know anyone (as far as I was aware, then) who was homosexual and hadn't even had the concept until I left home to go into the military a few months earlier. There were some jokes and accusations going around in high school, just nothing that I took seriously or even, really, understood.
There was no public discussion of homosexuality back then, basically, it just was not mentioned by most people. I would say that, while less well known, it was considered to be on par with heroin addiction in the public mind. Something dirty and disgusting that only evil losers would stoop to doing, to put it nicely.
But, in San Diego, there were a few men who were publicly gay. Once in a while I would see a couple or a small group on Broadway; the guys wore their hair wrong - obviously not military, some wore facial make-up, and they dressed wrongly - maybe they weren't gay at all, maybe they were in a show or something - I have no idea.
Then in August of '62 a guy that was in my technical school at the Naval Training Center was arrested, in the barracks, by CID and taken away in handcuffs. A little later the word went around that he had become "involved" with a "bad crowd" and was booted out of the service; the "bad crowd" was gay men. Then, from September of 1962 until January of 1966 I wasn't in the country much, just short visits between deployments.
As far as I know, there were no openly gay men in the US military in those days and probably very few closet gays, either. The environment on shipboard would probably have been intolerable and being homosexual was strictly illegal; while performance of any homosexual acts would get you many years in prison if discovered, with a strong possibility of being fatal instead.
In June of 1967, we - my wife & 2 very young daughters and I, moved to Portland, Oregon and then the job I had taken caused us to move around a lot for the next four years; but in June of 1971 we were back in Portland. My wife got a job managing a fish and chips restaurant that belonged to a small local Northwest chain.
We found that one of the restaurant managers in town was a gay man. Portland has - and had, then - a fairly large population of gay men, and he seemed like a nice enough guy and was a pretty good manager. A little later my wife hired a young man to work in her store whom we got to know and found out that he had moved from some little town in Montana to Portland because he was gay and the gay community in the city was well known.
Being gay and participating in gay sex was still illegal in most places in the country. In 1972, a Tacoma, Washington teacher of twelve years with a perfect record was terminated after a former student outed him to the vice-principal. The courts upheld the firing as being just. On June 30, 1986, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick, that homosexual sex was not protected under the citizen's right to privacy.
At the end of 1989 there were still 24 states where any homosexual activity was likely to be illegal and some definitely was, the penalties weren't slight either. There were thirteen states left in 2003, where homosexual acts were illegal, when the US supreme court decided that all state sodomy laws were unconstitutional.
Since 1970 we have gone from a situation where any and all homosexual activity was illegal in every state except Illinois to a situation where, as of nine years ago, it is legal in all states between consenting adults in a private home. It only took 33 years. But; as you might have noticed, the journey to extending normal privileges of citizenship, along with those fragile and often hotly contested things which the founding fathers were pleased to label as "rights" in the first ten amendments to our supreme law, to gays, has neither been without controversy nor blessed with universal acceptance as being the right thing to have done.
For several years I have favored the path that some other countries have used wherein the civil ceremony/contract is distinct from the religious contract. A couple needs both in some countries in order to satisfy both the priest and the law. So I found it comfortable to suggest that the civil union was one thing and had little to do with marriage in a religious sense and therefore we could sidestep the issue by making the civil union unrelated to gender. That, of course, satisfied almost nobody and I've decided that it's not about my comfort, anyway, and in reality has nothing at all to do with me.
Now, again, about all that outrage: how about doing something about all the sexual assault and sexual trafficking of young women against their will? After you get that stuff stopped, then I'm willing to discuss the issue of homosexual equality - actually; I'm not, but I can find you some folks who would love to talk with you about it...