A few months ago, after watching one of the Republican debates, I placed a call to my sweet little momma. She lives in what I call a FOX News bubble: She doesn't have access to the Internet or pay much attention to opposing views. I'd been curious about her thoughts on the Republican hopefuls running for the presidential nomination. This campaign year has been a bit like a circus, and I couldn't help but wonder.
She had decided. "I like Santorum for president," she told me.
"Mother," I said, cautiously, "the statements the man makes ... I'm just baffled by it all."
I was talking about his comments that deal directly with me and my "lifestyle"—the one that's apparently detrimental to civilization. I then explained how disheartening it is to listen to these men argue to keep me a second-class citizen.
My mother, a conservative Southern Baptist, thinks I should be able to marry my partner of almost 10 years. When I worked up the courage to ask, she said thoughtfully, "It's my understanding that the only thing that condemns a soul to hell is not accepting Christ as your savior, not being gay." She, like our president, wrestled with the issue at hand, and her thoughts eventually evolved—to a point.
"Oh, son," she said, explaining her views on gay marriage. "I believe it should be put to a vote. The people should decide."
So, there it was: the old flag conservatives wave when pressed for an opinion—"Vote on Civil Rights." It should go without saying that blacks would probably still be on the back of the bus had it been left to the people's vote back in the '60s.
"Well, I'm glad you're open to the idea" was all I could muster, and I left it at that.
Then, months later, our president publicly stated he believes gays should have the right to a marriage recognized by our state and the federal government.
Of course, he says it should be left up to the states to decide, kicking the can even further down the street, so to speak.
Six states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage, so we've seen progress. But several states amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage and even to refuse to recognize those legal unions from other states. Mississippi did so in 2004 with a majority of voters defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
End of story, so sayeth the Lo-ward!
There have been some rumblings about the unconstitutionality of such amendments—as well as the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts legal unions to "one man and one woman"—as it works its way through the judicial system.
I, like so many, sit and watch while others weigh in on the subject; it's like I'm the elderly woman across the table from my adult children who are debating among themselves whether I should be allowed to drive.
I cling to this one thing: Polls are now showing that an increasing majority of Americans are in favor of marriage equality because of their proximity to gays and lesbians. As the social climate warms to the idea that gays and lesbians are an acceptable and important part of our society, more and more of "my kind" feel comfortable stepping out of the closet. The more we show ourselves, the more society will understand that everyone knows one, works with one, or is related to one.
Back in 1978, Harvey Milk knew this very thing to be true:
"Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out to your parents. I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives; come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors, to your fellow workers, to the people who work where you eat and shop; come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions."
Proximity, coupled with the fact that equality is nearly a non-issue for many voters under age 30, will eventually lead to marriage equality. If the federal government keeps kicking the can and the states continue to be divided on the issue, I know at least the up-and-coming voters will vote in favor of an amendment to allow gay marriage or will overwhelmingly repeal existing amendments against it.
You see, while our president encouraged a "respectful debate" on the subject, the opponents are encouraging anything but. We see some of the most passionate and frightening opposition coming directly from the pulpit. This sort of fanatical preaching is nothing new, but now, as these snippets of hate go viral, light shines on the black heart of a big segment of our population. Not surprisingly, these "men of God" run for cover when called out on their bigotry. Without much fuss, these people drive younger voters away from the church and the increasingly ultra-conservative Republican Party.
Here we are, fighting in what is being called "the new civil-rights movement," and more and more Americans are on our side.
As our president said while addressing the attendees of a Human Rights Campaign banquet in 2009:
"That's the story of America: of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating and advocating for change ... of Americans fighting to build for themselves and their families a nation in which no one is a second-class citizen ... (is) free to live and love as we see fit."
The story of America—indeed.
Eddie Outlaw is co-owner of the William Wallace Salon in Fondren, a resident of the King Edward, and spends most of his time trying not to embarrass his sweet Delta mother on http://www.eddieoutlaw.com.