I hate to be a party pooper but in my 53 years of life, one thing that I have learned over and over again is that, to quote that famous sage Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Specifically, we can enjoy the flush of victory in Massachusetts, and even dream about the long-term benefits that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision on same sex marriage will bestow, but the fight isn’t over. It will continue with Rev. Fred Phelps, Rev. Lou Sheldon, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Roberts, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Randall Terry and all the homophobic nasties who masquerade as family values advocates endanger and embitter the lives of gay, lesbian, bi-, transgendered and questioning people.
If they really cared about “family values,” they would launch international campaigns to stop sexual slavery, mail order brides, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, child labor, and rape. What could do more harm to domestic tranquility than any of these vices?
Listen to their argument: The real purpose of marriage is the protection of children. What about all the people who marry and don’t have and don’t want children? Or people who marry beyond their child-bearing years? Or fathers who drink up their paychecks and beat their wives? How are children protected in those situations? Their concern with family values is just a smokescreen to disguise their homophobia.
Despite the legal victory, GLBTQ people can expect tremendous resistance to same sex marriage. The Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery but black folks still faced Jim Crow laws, poll tests and poll taxes, restrictions on marrying whites, discrimination in education, housing and employment. More than fifty years passed before segregation in education ended with Brown v. Board of Education, and even then, the change was on the books but fifty year after that decision, our schools still are not completely desegregated.
We have already seen Fred Phelp’s handiwork on his poisonous http://www.godhatesfags.com web site. A screed against the late Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was murdered in Wyoming in October 12, 1998, accompanies a picture of him “burning in hell,” that is, a photo of his face surrounded by animated flames. Phelps has a similar “memorial tribute” to Dianne Whipple, the San Francisco lesbian who was mauled to death by her neighbor’s vicious dogs on January 26, 2001. The message accompanying this vileness reads:
“Deal with it! All else is trivial and unimportant. All the fag caterwauling, candlelight vigils, court orders, etc., can't buy these perverts one drop of water to cool their tongues.”
What possesses people to promulgate such hatred? How can they profess to be motivated by Christian love but persist in making the most vile attacks on people who aren’t hurting them in any way? Why would they want to force a GLBTQ person into marriage, an act that would sure cause that person confusion and distress? Marriage is hard enough without having to deal with the fallout of a confused sexual identity. In America’s recent history, the most violent ideologues have come from the Right. The Ku Klux Klan is only the most infamous example. The Internet has provided a breeding ground for the hate industry: Louis
Farrahkan, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, and many, many others have all found a fountain of gold on the Internet. Jesus dined with sinners and sexual outlaws. What part of “Love thy neighbor” don’t they understand? Why the disconnect? Greater minds than mine have pondered the source and meaning of hatred so I won’t propose an answer here.
There is something about human sexuality that sends ordinary people off the deep end. In the late 1980s when I was the president of the California NOW Foundation, I spoke at a public hearing before the Los Angeles Board of Education in support of “Project 10,” a pioneering program for gay and lesbian youth in the LA public high schools which was intended to provide counseling and a safe place for lesbigay youth who are at very high risk for suicide. Lou Sheldon brought busloads of his congregants to pack the hearing. One person after another testified against homosexuality. Many of them came with books, magazines or other printed materials describing detailed homosexual acts which they read to the crowded hearing room and boomed out over the speakers in the courtyard to those who couldn’t get a seat inside. I remember thinking that if you read anybody’s sexual practices aloud, they are going to sound lewd. In fact, it was downright comic to see Lou Sheldon’s hysterical red face as he did his dramatic reading. I half-expected a gaggle of his flock to moan and pant in the background. I’m sure he would have arranged it if he’d thought of it.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” In the weeks and months to come, we must steel ourselves for the outpouring of hatred in the newspapers, magazines and broadcast media; in Congress and in the state legislatures. We must be wary when we walk the streets because the gay bashers have a sense of renewed purpose. I wish we could just celebrate Goodridge vs. Massachusetts Board of Health but every advance brings a backlash; the MSJC has just struck at the deep vein of irrational hatred in American society. Hatred feeds on itself. Be careful out there!
Dra. Rosa Maria Pegueros (email@example.com)is an Associate Professor in the Department of History & Women's Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island