Same-Sex Marriage Has Change on its Side

Published on
by
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Same-Sex Marriage Has Change on its Side

by
Robert L. Jamieson, Jr.

A SURVEY several years ago found that one out of two Christian marriages implode in divorce.

By my math, if Christians spent more time focusing on their own unions -- and less railing against gays and lesbians who want to marry -- our city, state and nation would live happily ever after.

Religious bigots are roadblocks to gays and lesbians showing love in the same joyous ritual enjoyed by heterosexuals. Evangelicals have spent millions to "protect" traditional marriage and have gone so far as to threaten boycotts of corporate giants such as Microsoft Corp., a supporter of gay rights.

Extremists in the pew, though, have allies among folks who ought to know better: the African-American community, which fought long and hard for civil rights in the face of virulent racism.

I recently went to a Seattle gathering where a group of middle-aged black men were shooting the breeze. Gay and lesbian marriage came up. The men -- bus drivers, city workers, football coaches and churchgoers -- spewed about same-sex unions. They invoked such words as "queer" and "funny business" and used unprintable slurs.

Shocked, I railed against their ignorance. One of the men turned to me and said, "Boy, are you one of them?"

"Sure," I shot back, "if by them you mean fellow human beings."

I should have pointed out that their hate sounded just like the vitriol of anti-miscegenation laws that once prevented whites and blacks from saying, "I do."

Blacks -- along with Hispanics -- were overcome by a similar amnesia and homophobia, and helped fuel California Proposition 8's triumph Election Day. The Proposition bans same-sex weddings.

Clearly, the measure won because a white majority -- including the Mormon Church, which funded 40 percent of the campaign -- voted for it. People of color could have turned that tide.

The argument is often made that the struggle for gay rights shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as the civil rights movement -- that gay people can hide sexual orientation while people of color cannot cloak their skin. This back-and-forth is corrosive to the human cause we all should be championing -- equal rights.

It is sickening -- measuring contests about whose woe is worse.

In the wake of Prop 8, which won 52.5 percent of the vote, people are rising up. In Seattle on Saturday, gays and lesbians are joining forces with civil rights advocates for a march and protest.

I applaud them. Each step against intolerance is a step in the right direction -- toward a time and place where people aren't legislating love out of hate.

Saturday night in Seattle, the ACLU will take another step when it honors two brave young people.

Growing up, Ian Feis suffered a barrage of ignorance. He was pushed, shoved and tripped on the school bus and school hallways -- even though for some time he was not openly gay. His house was egged. His mailbox, burned. He complained to a principal; school brass suggested he change schools.

Feis eventually responded by helping start, in 2006, the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Mount Vernon High to fight homophobia. But when he later proposed an educational event called "Over the Rainbow," the principal and superintendent lost their spines. Feis pressed on. The event -- featuring a job fair, documentary and workshops -- opened hearts and minds.

The second award recipient took on a bully I've challenged before -- the Rev. Ken Hutcherson of the Eastside's Antioch Bible Church. Hutcherson in April brought his "prayer warriors" to Mount Si High in Snoqualmie to protest the school's Day of Silence. Part of a national movement, students stay mum to symbolize the harassment of gay, lesbian and transgender youths.

Caitlin Donnelly, 18, a leader of Mount Si's Gay/Straight Alliance was pressured to cancel the event. She didn't, instead urging students to respond with dignity and maturity to protesters. Inside the school hundreds of students wore tie-dyed bracelets and spoke only if called on. Others offered a respectful counterprotest by wearing red, white and blue shirts, or ones that said "Straight Pride."

Administrators were proud of students' responses. The real troublemakers weren't the kids -- just those Bible-thumping loudmouths outside.

Young people such as Donnelly and Feis -- along with Saturday's marchers -- are on the vanguard of change that will come court decision-by-court decision, vote-by-vote, step-by-step.

Same-sex marriage is inevitable. It just takes time. That's how change came after the civil rights push and now look: A black man is going to the White House.

 

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