“At some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won’t be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black.” George Clooney
Do you ever watch a documentary on the civil rights movement of the 1950′s and 60′s and cringe when it comes to scenes of furious white people hurling stones, taunting, and overall verbally and physically assaulting movement activists? In 2013, it seems ludicrous, shameful, and yes, embarrassing. If you haven’t, do it. And go ahead, cringe. We should.
If footage from then seems like coverage of the Dark Ages, consider this. If you are over 50, that outward display of hatred was happening in your lifetime.
Today’s children routinely study atrocities like the Holocaust, the Salem Witch trials, and the treatment of African Americans and Native Americans, as well as women, in our country. If they aren’t studying them, they should be, and often. It’s simply history now, that discipline that takes us back to another time while we see the actions and decisions of our ancestors from modern sensibilities. The behaviors seem almost insane from our point of view today, particular the behaviors of people living in our lifetime, in our country, and perhaps in our own cities.
Jump forward 50 years to 2013 to the marriage equality movement and the overall movement that started out of a bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York in 1969. We’ve come a long way. Just a few headlines from this year:
Supreme Court DOMA Decision Rules Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
THE END OF “EX-GAY’ CONVERSION THERAPY.
Poll: Support for gay marriage hits high after ruling
As my friend and colleague Jackson Katz said years ago, “That train has left the station”. And it has. But, as a person who’s been involved in some movements, I know that for every push, there’s a “push back”. And oh, what a push back.
Let’s just take my beloved hometown, Sioux City, Iowa. I sing it’s praises all the time, but not on this one. In fact, Sioux City has a rather disturbing history of “the push back”. Here’s a few highlights and a few stars of the anti equality bunch that our own children and grandchildren may be reading about 50 years from now…or sooner.
1950′s, Sioux City, Iowa: As Neil Miller writes about in his classic “Sex Crime Panic”, described here. “Following the brutal murders of two children in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1954, police, in an attempt to quell public hysteria, arrested 20 men whom the authorities never claimed had anything to do with the crimes. Labeled as sexual psychopaths under an Iowa law that lumped homosexuals together with child molesters and murderers, the men were sentenced to a mental institution until cured.” If I wasn’t there in the mid 50′s, I was on the way…
2004, Sioux City, Iowa, from The Advocate “The Sioux City, Iowa, city council has rejected a proposal to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation. The council voted 4-1 Monday against adding gays and lesbians to the current city law, which makes it illegal to discriminate against people in jobs, accommodations, and housing on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, religion, ancestry or disability.The Human Rights Commission asked the council to add sexual orientation to that group of protected classes. Mayor Dave Ferris and Councilmen Marty Dougherty and Jason Geary said they voted against the measure based on their religious beliefs involving homosexuals. Councilman Craig Berenstein said he voted no because he wanted more time to study the proposal.Councilwoman Karen Forneris cast the only vote in favor of adding sexual orientation to the law. Five Iowa cities have included sexual orientation in their ordinances—Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines and Iowa City. That time I was there. A group of us stood outside city hall to protest that one. I should have done the same in the mid 1990′s when a religious group objected to my having an LGBT section in my store. A new council finally went along with adding sexual orientation in 2008, as the state of Iowa had already added it.
2010, Sioux City’s own Pastor Cary Gordon and the Cornerstone World Outreach were leaders in the efflort to have Iowans oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices whose ruling was part of a 7-0 unanimous vote that legalized same sex marriage in the state of Iowa. The three justices were ousted, but later received the “Profiles in Courage” awards from the Kennedy Center in 2012.
2011, Sioux City’s own, Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader gained national recognition for its pledge, “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY”, which it asked 2012 presidential hopefuls to sign. Vander Plaats himself also gained recognition, being referred to in one news post as a “kingmaker.”
I hope as our descendants study the history of our nation, as well as our own home town, some of these things will be looked at with new eyes and looked at hard. My sense is that the cringe factor is and will be strong, as it should. Just recently there has been a controversy concerning the appointment of a gay man, Scott Raasch, to the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, following the uncovering of some unpleasant comments Raasch made to anti gay rights Pastor Cary Gordon three years ago. Gordon has asked for Raasch’s removal. http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/cornerstone-pastor-calls-for-new-sioux-city-human-rights-commissioner/article_04263e87-485c-5697-921a-e0729251192e.html The city council has just yesterday stated that Raasch will stay on the commission. That was the push, I await breathlessly for the push back.
I also await the day when we, as a country, and as fellow humans recognize and learn from our own cringe worthy actions and behaviors, that gay rights and marriage equality are simply human rights, and deserve our full and unqualified support.