A few weeks ago, I worked yet another wedding on the Sony backlot. If you work enough weddings, you come to realize that no matter the bride and groom’s ethnicity, religion, or budget, every wedding shares two things: they are boring and incredibly depressing.
Despite it being their “special” day, to a server, it is just another event in which you load a buffet, pour water, and count rental napkins in bundles of ten after the music has ended. On the subject (and placing more points in the boring column), all weddings – and all events with a DJ really – seem to have required songs (“Don’t Stop Believin’,”Celebration,” “”Closing Time,” and an unnecessary amount of Black Eyed Peas) and this DJ in particular seemed to just push Shuffle and let it ride (in what universe does “Summer Nights” come after a Jason Mraz ballad?) Watching white people dance badly to bad music must be in the Wedding Planner’s Handbook.
If you don’t know the people (and even if you do) listening to their speeches – speeches from people who are clearly not writers, clearly not public speakers, clearly from people with nothing very engaging to say, peppering their speeches with cliches (“Ever since ______introduced us to ______, he’s been like family and I’m happy today that you have finally made it official” followed by rounds of applause), bringing people to tears with their corny lines – induces eye rolls and occasionally the Walk Away to keep from laughing or choking on the saccharinity.
Weddings are still the last stand of relationship legitimacy. In front of your friends and family, you and your chosen life mate get to proudly profess your commitment to one another ’til (theoretically) death do you part. Which makes sitting through these events of camaraderie and respect as a homosexual aggravating, embarrassing, and sad.
The quest for gay rights has been a long and slowly evolving one in America. Jamestown saw the first prosecution of alleged homosexual acts when Richard Cornish was charged with the rape of a male indentured servant in 1624, a claim that was later rebuked by the “victim’s” own brother. In 1636, sodomy – the “unnatural” sexual acts of oral and anal sex, derived from the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible – was made a crime punishable by death in the Plymouth Colony. In 1641, the Massachusetts’ Body of Liberties used the Letivical Law pertaining to homosexuality as grounds for capital punishment. Even our beloved Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1778 in his Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments that “whoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman by cutting thro’ the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least.”
As the nation grew, sodomy laws spread throughout the states and remained a nationwide felony until 1962. Ironically, it was Midwestern state Illinois (coincidentally the Congressional state of the first sitting President to support gay marriage), not the liberally minded New England states one would expect, that adopted the first modernization of the law by removing consensual sodomy from criminalization. Other states were slow to follow until the official beginning of the Gay Rights Movement in 1969 with the Stonewall Uprising.
Prior to Stonewall, there had been other run-ins with the law, including a scuffle at Cooper Donut’s in 1959 Los Angeles where author John Rechy and a handful of others narrowly escaped arrest; a protest in 1964 against the military’s treatment of homosexuals,; and a riot at the Black Cat Tavern in 1966 where over 200 people picketed against the actions of the police, which lead to the publication of The Advocate magazine. There were also fringe groups like The Society for Human Rights (founded in 1924, again in Illinois) that sought “to promote and protect the interests of people…abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness…guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence…” and The Mattachine Society, created during the Communist Era with the goals to “unify homosexuals…educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture…lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership…and assist gays who are victimized.” These organizations grew from a need to portray homosexuals as people, not social deviants who were worthy of the lobotomies and institutionalization they endured for the first half of the 20th century. Homosexuality had to be kept a secret to avoid these punishments, unfortunately looked upon as “cures.”
The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, was a sanctuary for the most dejected of homosexuals, including runaway youth and drag queens; people that no one had expected to fight back. But fight back they did.
The riots lasted for three evenings and attracted hundreds of nearby onlookers, gleaning much media attention. They fueled a need from the gay community to take action and stand up for their rights. A new organization, the Gay Liberation Front, was founded to spread the word from the rooftops that “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” If the Mattachine Society was Martin Luther King, GLF was Malcolm X.
GLF coordinated the first Gay Pride Parade on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This has become an annual event throughout the United States, including a parade, festivities, and political activism to keep the banner high.
Henceforth, sodomy laws began to trickle off the books. The ‘70s saw 20 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IN, IA, MN, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OR, SD, VT, WA, WV, AND WY) join Illinois while the ‘80s added AK and WI. GA, KY, MD, MT, NV, PA, RI, TN, and Washington, D.C. followed suit in the ‘90s with AR, AZ, MA, MN, and NY changing their laws before the landmark Supreme Court case Lawrence vs. Texas (2003) overturned the sodomy laws against homosexuals in the remaining 14 states (AL, FL, ID, KS, LA, MI, MS, MO, NC, OK, SC, TX, UT, and VA). The case ruled that private actions between consenting citizens could not be outlawed under the Constitution. (Strangely enough, AR, KS, KY, MO, MN, TN, and TX still consider anal sex between unmarried heterosexual people illegal while AL, AZ, KS, KY, MO, MN, NY, NC, TN, and TX extend this ruling to married heterosexuals. AR, SC, and MI even outlaw oral sex)
Congressman and outspoken Libertarian Ron Paul stated in the first Republican debate that there shouldn’t be rights specifically benefiting one group of people, whether they be gay, black, or female; there should just be rights. Unfortunately, this is a pipedream. This would require all parties to accept others, regardless of how they may differ from themselves, as their equal. Despite almost 250 years of history, America, for all of its evolution and comparative progressiveness, is still a country divided over race, religion, how to raise our children, and what it means to live the American Dream. And as American citizens, we have this individual right not to support or endorse people or lifestyles we disapprove of, but as a governing body, if our Constitution is worth its parchment, we do not. Basic rights, such as the ability to visit one’s partner in the hospital (which Obama finally extended to us in April of 2010) or take care of our loved ones by covering them on our insurance should not – and cannot be infringed upon by outside parties who constitutionally don’t have the right to do so; the pursuit of happiness does not come with a qualifier. Hence the need for gay rights. I wish gay laws and rights could be decided upon by homosexuals, but that is not how our system works. If we are honest with ourselves, many of our laws are not made by people at all.
Throughout history, God has been used as the justification for innumerable crimes, policies, and mandates from the Crusades to 9/11. Thankfully, since the adoption of our Constitution, America has waved the flag – ostensibly at least – for the separation of Church and State, even going as far as the Supreme Court with McCollum v. Board of Education Dist 71 (1948), which banned religious instruction in public schools. However, in the case of gay rights, religion is the deep-rooted, most important factor in the justification for the denial of marriage among our gay citizens.
Marriage has long since been touted as a religious event, dating back to the “marriage” of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. Marriage was the foundation of civilization, the divine joining of love between a man and a woman as a devotion to the Lord. According to the Bible, the concept of this between homosexuals is not only against the Laws of God, but also anything remotely homosexual is referred to as purely carnal, not the slightest bit emotional or sacred (unless you take Jonathan and King David into consideration, which some pro-gay theologians entertain).
The three oft-quoted passages of the Bible used to defend Christian bigotry against homosexuality are Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27, and the most cited example, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this passage, God sends two angels to the neighboring towns to investigate the reported iniquity of its inhabitants. God promises Abraham if the angels can find even ten righteous people, he will not destroy the town. However, the angels are so taken aback by Sodom’s “outcry against its people” that they send the call to God to demolish the area.
The debate between theists and non-believers, as well as inter-fighting between Christians, has been over what is meant by “the sin of Sodom.” Why was Sodom destroyed? Some Christians believe it is stated very clearly: the men wanted to have sex with the male angels, God saw this as depraved, and decided to wipe out the town. Reading the passage in its entirety, this theory is hard to refute. However, the tale of Sodom of Gomorrah is referenced numerous other times in the Bible, some blatantly blaming homosexuality, some not.
Jude 7 says, “Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
However, Ezekiel 16:49-50 states, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it.” One could attach homosexuality to the list of “abominable things” – a reference to Leviticus – but this doesn’t claim it was the only reason.
The Leviticus argument states “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” This is listed among the Letivical Laws, rules ordained by God related through Moses on how to live a righteously Jewish life. Other laws include the forbiddance of eating rabbits and pigs (11:6-7), sacrifice of “two turtledoves or two pigeons” as an offering to repent for masturbation (15:14), the forbiddance of sex with a woman on her period (18:19), and the penalty of death for adulterers (20:10). If we clearly don’t follow the other rules in a modern context, why must we uphold the “laws” on homosexuality?
The Letter of Paul to the Romans was written, along with the rest of the New Testament, well after Christ’s death. If Christianity is the religion of Christ’s teachings and homosexuality is the abomination of God’s law that we are told it is, then why did Jesus in all of his speeches and parables leave it out? Look through the Gospels. You won’t find it. Romans is Paul’s interpretation of the faith. In addition, if homosexuality is at the top of God’s list of don’ts, why isn’t it part of the Ten Commandments? They are repeated three times in the Bible (Exodus 20:2-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21, Matthew 19:16-19). One would think it would be mentioned at least once, especially by Christ, but it is not. In fact, Jesus told us “do not judge, or you too will be judged (Matthew 7:1-2) and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). What part of that means that we should be allowed to get away with selective compassion?
By referencing these scriptures I am not trying to claim that Christians don’t have the right or the scriptural basis to dislike, hate, or even damn homosexuals, even though it seems antithetical to Christ’s message. I am also not claiming that all religious people are anti-gay. There are innumerable churches, catalogued by state on gaychurch.org, that support and affirm homosexual men and women’s place in religion. And of course, famous televangelist Tammy Faye Baker proclaimed in our defense on more than one occasion, “God Don’t Make No Junk.” What is important is that wherever ones religious views may align, we should not and cannot in a free America where we are supposed to keep God out of the courthouse allow lawmakers, politicians, or even small emphatic groups of believers withhold legal rights from homosexuals on religious grounds.
But unfortunately this is exactly what has and will continue to happen if Barack Obama is not reelected. It is not the middle of the road Christians who are the loudest in the campaign against rights for gay people. They are the descendants of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two hate preachers who blamed gay people and the ones who support them for the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Robertson, host of The 700 Club (an ultra conservative television program) and Falwell (now deceased) believed that AIDS was God’s punishment for the sin of homosexuality. They were leaders in the Moral Majority movement throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s who got Evangelicals out to vote for their presidential nominees Ronald Reagan and Bush, Sr. and campaigned for “traditional” values, damning homosexual behavior as a crime against nature. I would be remiss not to mention Anita Bryant and the Westboro Baptists here. Bryant led an anti-gay movement of her own entitled “Save Our Children” – not to be confused with the philanthropic “Save the Children” – as a response to the then recent passing of a human rights ordinance in Florida that barred sexual orientation as being used for discriminatory grounds, the first legal statute of its kind. Bryant’s ultra-conservative Christian group got the law overturned and continued to serve, alongside Falwell, as the “God-fearing” opposition to gay equality throughout the ‘70s. The Westboro Baptist Church are a small group of “Christians” whose sole purpose seems to be to spread the fact that homosexuality is the root of all evil. They are the assholes (there really is no nice way to put it) who picket the funerals of dead soldiers with signs reading “God Crashed Your Plane” and “God Hates Fags.” Their website is actually http://www.godhatesfag.com. That’s not a joke. Look it up. Or better yet, don’t.
If what St. Paul says is to be believed, then we must also accept Romans 14:13: “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.” Bob Barr clearly didn’t obey this edict when he wrote the Defense of Marriage Act.
The question of gay marriage is a fairly recent dilemma in our nation’s history. (It wasn’t until 1973 that Maryland became the first state to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman) Something uniquely American, given our 10th Amendment, is that states have sovereignty to make laws and regulations not covered in the federal constitution, which allows gay marriage to be decided upon on a state by state basis, unless it is federally amending like the right for black people to vote.
The idea for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) started in Hawaii when three same-sex couples fought the Hawaiian courts over the constitutionality of gay marriage’s prohibition in 2003. The court agreed to their demands, but the decision was quickly followed by an amendment to Hawaii’s constitution that defined marriage as between a man and woman. (Hawaii later made civil unions legal in February 2011)
DOMA was written out of fear that the fight for gay marriage would spread to the other states and disintegrate the “sanctity of marriage.” This was in large part because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution that states that judicial proceedings from one territory must be upheld in another. In the case of gay marriage, if Hawaii had allowed gay people to wed, other states would have to legally acknowledge the marriages of those couples married in Hawaii within their own states. Hence DOMA was born.
The bill was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, officially defining marriage as between a man and a woman. This embarrassing piece of legislaton was one of two controversial bills (the other being Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 1993) signed into law by Clinton, who ironically was supported by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay advocacy group in America, during the general election.
President Obama and federal district court Judge Joseph L. Tairo have since debunked the constitutionality of the law, citing discriminatory grounds and the usurping of state’s rights. Also, despite DOMA’s federal reach, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, New York, and the District of Columbia grant same-sex marriage rights to its citizens, with Washington, Maryland, and Maine awaiting a voter referendum to achieve full legal status in the November election. (Surprisingly, California, a state that makes its revenue on weed, wine, and the movies, and became the first state to teach LGBT history in public schools, revoked gay marriage in 2008 after a voter referendum). In addition, Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act on December 22, 2010, which allows gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military without the threat of discharge or the loss of benefits. These gestures are a step forward to acquiring rights for all of our gay citizens; however, they can very easily be reversed if Republicans are allowed to take back control of the White House.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are staunchly opposed to the idea of gay marriage and support its constitutional ban. As expected, these ideals stem from their faith. Not only do they believe homosexuality is wrong, according to the common interpretation of the Bible, but the idea of gay marriage is an attack of the most personal order.
Some have claimed that it is not the idea of homosexual partnership, per se, that is offensive, but the phraseology of “marriage,” something seen as religious. Why not call it a domestic partnership or civil union? For starters, calling it something different creates a “separate but equal” mentality; we should have learned from the struggle for black rights that separate is never actually equal. Additionally, by calling it marriage, we would be afforded over 1000 federal and state benefits such as sick leave to care for a partner, tax breaks, and the assumption of a spouse’s pension; whereas, civil unions and domestic partnerships only offer roughly 300 benefits and only on a state by state basis. If gay couples travel or move to a state that doesn’t honor gay marriage, their rights are null and void.
For those who believe that the word “marriage” is religious, therefore unworthy to acknowledge homosexuality, let me put your mind at ease. Most gay people are not looking for religious acceptance. We know this is a losing battle of wills. What we do want is to be afforded the same civil rights as heterosexual couples. But if marriage is truly a covenant with God, then let’s keep it that way. Marriage should cease to be a civil affair altogether and solely be recognized as a religious connection of body and spirit. But as long as people can get hitched for money on live television, Britney Spears can have a drive-thru drunken nuptial in Vegas, and people can get wed and divorced into the double digits all under the umbrella of marriage, I should be allowed to make a solemn commitment to the man I love and reap all of the social and financial benefits the same way heterosexuals do.
Opponents to gay marriage also site the expectation of children as just cause to deny rights. Marriage’s purpose is to bear offspring and multiply. OK, fine. Then really go with that. That would mean the old, the sterile, and the disinterested would also be denied the right to marry because they could not fulfill their obligation to society through the contract of marriage.
The idea of gay parenting is even scarier for the opposition. How can two men raise a girl? How will she find her identity? And what if they raised a boy? Surely, he would be homosexual. These fears are a blatant manifestation of their own homophobia and ignorance. In fact, there is no statistical proof that children of homosexuals are less likely to be “socially well adjusted” (whatever that means) or more likely to turn out gay than the children of heterosexual parents. If that were the case, no one would be gay because most gay people come from straight homes and certainly live in a straight dominated culture. This theory is just plain silly.
There is an archaic belief still held onto by the most ignorant that if gay men were allowed to be parents they would molest their male sons. This was disproven by the International Academy of Sex Research back in 1978 so there is really no excuse for this theory in a modern world. Even the American Psychological Association, an organization that categorized homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1974, states that the “perception that most perpetrators [of molestation] are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype.”
Thankfully, there are only a handful of states that harbor any of these sentiments by making gay adoption totally illegal: Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Michigan. The other states adhere to a plethora of combinations such as permitting (or not specifically prohibiting) single GLBT adoption, joint adoption, and second-parent adoptions (the adoption of a partner’s child).
Barack Obama’s views on homosexuality and gay marriage “evolved” for quite some time before finally coming out recently in full support of marriage, not just civil unions, perhaps with a little pressure from loose-lipped Biden’s approval of marriage equality on Meet the Press. But unlike Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – who have categorically been against gay marriage, civil unions, gay adoption, the repeal of DADT, and the strengthening of DOMA – Barack Obama has always been open to the idea that his views may have been incorrect.
From The Audacity of Hope:
“And I was reminded [after a phone call from a disappointed lesbian supporter] that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided….I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of the argument…When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations.”
These are words that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would never speak, even if they felt them in their heart, for fear of alienating their base.
My aunt challenged me on being a “single-issue voter” because my reasoning for disliking Paul Ryan was because of his stance on gay marriage. This is a manifold statement. For starters, when the “single issue” is literally your legitimacy as an American citizen, it is pretty damned important. Secondly, if Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or Hillary and Bill Clinton had not come forward in support of gay marriage, I would still be a Democrat (Colin Powell and Dick Cheney support gay marriage and I am not rallying for the RNC). I am a Democrat because I believe in a country that takes care of and respects all of its citizens, not just the ones who can afford to pay their own way or “borrow money from their parents.” I believe we are a nation of individuals that must come together as one to help those help themselves. When you lose your job, you deserve unemployment. When you contribute taxes from your paycheck for 40+ years, you deserve a thank you from the government in the form of Social Security and Medicare. When you are sick and can’t afford health care, you deserve to be treated with humanity, not as a deductible. I believe in a party that acknowledges institutionalized racism and does what it can to right the wrong. I believe in a party that even if they are of faith, will not cram it down your throat and govern from the pulpit. This is why I am voting for Barack Obama.
Is he perfect? No. Is he the Messiah? No. But he owns his shortcomings and despite the past four years of stymies and filibusters, still believes in bipartisanship, still believes that others may have better ideas, keeps his cool in the face of adversity, and isn’t afraid to admit mistakes. I admire that he loves America, but owns its shortcomings and isn’t afraid to admit them to other countries. A President that knows making unpopular decisions is part of the job description. A President who values diplomacy over war, yet can kill the bad guy when necessary. A President who knows we have economic problems, but refuses to jeopardize the health and wellness of his fellow Americans to fix them. A President who knows that someone’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with the love they feel for their country and the desire they have to serve it. A President who signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, helping everyone get equal pay for equal work; the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, cracking down on toxic mortgage lending and keeping Americans in their homes; and the Fair Sentencing Act, making the sentencing of crack and cocaine possession more equal, helping to end racial bias in the judicial system. A President who understands the pitfalls of student loan lending and is working to enact legislation to bring down the crippling debt that affects so much of Gen Y.
It is abundantly clear who I am voting for and why and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want you to vote for Obama too. I think he is steering the country in the right direction and in regards to the economy, it is impossible to turn around eight years of two wars without raising taxes to pay for it and financial improprieties of Big Business in just four years. FDR knew in order to get out of a depression, you have to spend. So does Obama (another decision that he is making for the good of the country and not for political popularity). Do we have a giant problem on our hands? Read. My. Lips. Yes. But when Congress, the governing body who really makes the rules in a democracy, is overtaken by radicals who refuse a compromise that would reduce 2.4 trillion dollars from the ever climbing deficit just to defeat the President, legislatures who are hired to serve the people, not a party’s agenda, it is impossible to make affective economic change.
It is staggering to me that roughly only 65% of the voting population cast a ballot in any given General Election, when we have numerous shows garnering millions of votes to elect a fucking pop star. Voting for President is the most important – and really only – civic duty we have, yet we are lazy, empathetic, or both about getting to the polls. We get off work to do it, people. Regardless of your politics, your social views, or economic beliefs, I urge you to get out and vote. America is waiting. Be the change you want to see.