The Big Gay Shrug
Sorry, enemies of gay marriage. Prop 8 or no, you've already lost
Here's a fun thing to do to calm your frazzled, saddened nerves in the wake of the CA Supreme Court's very unfortunate, but also merely annoying and karmically fleeting Proposition 8 decision:
Head on down to your local high school -- hell, make it a junior high or even an elementary -- and take yourself an informal survey. Ask the various wary, bepimpled youth of Generation Tweet what they think about those scary gay people getting married.
Ask them, in your most panicky, alarmist, Mormonified voice: Aren't they horrified at the very idea? Aren't they shocked at the very thought of two people in love having their union officially recognized and validated by the state?
Don't they know the musty ol' Bible mutters some barely coherent, mistranslated silliness about it in a single word or two written 1,500 years ago in a long dead language by acidic church elders with powermad political agendas and violently repressed libidos who nevertheless wish to instruct us all how to live and love and screw?
Please note the response. Please observe how the kids merely look at you as though you're more than a little bit deranged and prehistoric, so out of touch you might as well be Dick Cheney talking up the diesel-powered rectal thermometers he so loved back in World War I.
Watch carefully as they sigh and roll their eyes, then whip out their Nokias to text their friends about how this creepy elder just tried to convince them that the harmless, yawningly commonplace homosexuality currently saturating the popular culture all around them, from fashion to Facebook, movies to "American Idol," is not only wrong, but so wrong that the law should ban it forever because... well, no one really seems to know exactly why.
Did you see it? That big, sighing shrug of what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you, combined with lots of who-the-hell-cares? Because that's the reaction to note most of all.
Here is what it tells you: Gay marriage is a foregone conclusion. It's a done deal. It's just a matter of time. For the next generation in particular, equal rights for gays is not even a question or a serious issue, much less a sinful hysterical conundrum that can only be answered by terrified Mormons and confused old people and inane referendums funded by same. It's just obvious, inevitable, a given.
Let us hereby be reminded, before sadness and frustration overwhelm once more: Proposition 8 and its ilk are merely the last, fitful gasps of a long-dying ideology, markers of a certain kind of sad, conservative desperation. They are the final clawings and scrapings of a reactionary worldview that attempts to outlaw and punish all it cannot, will not understand. Same as it ever was, really.
The pattern is as old as fear itself. Remember, only rarely does true progress appear as a single, momentous, Obama-like shift that reverberates across the planet and changes everything in an instant. Most frequently it comes in fits and starts and hiccups, small lurches and hard-fought battles shot through with little spitballs of hate and intolerance and heaps of misunderstanding. You know, just like now.
Evidence? Plenty. Just look at the numbers: Support for gay marriage is now the highest it's been in American history, somewhere between 42 and 48 percent nationwide. Just a few decades ago, support was down in the 20s. It's been rising steadily ever since, never once regressing.
Or, flip that data around. According to FiveThirtyEight, marriage bans like California's are losing support at a rate of about two percent a year. According to that model, more than half of U.S. states will vote against bans like the contemptible Prop 8 as soon as 2012, if not sooner. By 2024, even miserably homophobic joints like Alabama and Mississippi will be flying the rainbow flag.
You could say, then, that we are, right this minute, at the tipping point. You could say that very soon indeed -- sooner than many people expect, in fact -- we will all look back on this inane gay marriage hysteria and wonder, what the hell was that all about? What the hell were we thinking? And by the way, isn't President Obama's second term going just astonishingly well?
As for massive, schizophrenic California, well, what can we say? In our convoluted, lurching, two steps forward eight steps sideways sort of quasi-progressive way, we flail and flip and frequently fail. It's just our way.
We may be a die-hard blue state overall, full of revolutionary ideas and world-class academics, Nobel Laureates and wondrous alternative belief systems, but we are also messy and flat-footed and just too damn big for our own good, and our southern half is packed to the Orange County rafters with piles of aging social conservatives and religious zealots with far too little spiritual/sexual awareness and far too much money. Sorry.
It's an undeniable shame indeed that this powerful, iconic, world-altering state couldn't get its damnable act together on The Last Civil Right. But, you know, oh well. Can't be the vanguard for 'em all. Iowa and Massachusetts, et al, please show us how it's done. And by the way, thank you.
Do not misunderstand: Setbacks like this Prop 8 decision are painful and even cruel, and the gay couples and activists who've been at the forefront of the fight since the beginning are nothing short of heroic. Like civil rights activists of any stripe before them, the subsequent generations who will take gay rights for granted will have them to thank forevermore for paving the way and fighting the good fight.
What's more, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done, new referendums and protests and fundraisers and awareness-raisings. The change will not come without help and push. Hate and homophobia still seethe in myriad pockets of the culture and the populace at large, even trickling down to dumb-blond silicon-injected beauty pageant runner-ups who parrot the same childlike religious misinformation her handlers have pumped into her kind for 2,000 wickedly patriarchal years.
But these setbacks are not insurmountable roadblocks. They are merely obnoxious speed bumps on what social conservatives see as our nation's ungodly highway to hell. They only slow us down a little.
A new campaign in the fight for marriage equality is already taking shape. Evolution is happening, the energy and momentum are unstoppable. Simply put, the ignorance and homophobia that fueled and funded Prop 8 in the first place will not stand.
Don't believe it? Hey, just ask your kids.
© 2009 The San Francisco Chronicle