With this month’s edition of the Word, my regular column returns. For those of you who have only recently begun reading this publication, I must warn you that this is a mixed blessing. (Longtime readers already know that!) During my…
With this month’s edition of the Word, my regular column returns. For those of you who have only recently begun reading this publication, I must warn you that this is a mixed blessing. (Longtime readers already know that!) During my previously stint as a Word columnist, I was criticized for being straight, Republican, a lawyer and a civil libertarian–all charges to which I plead guilty.
So how does a somewhat chubby grandmother with such credentials approach the issues that matter to people in the gay community? Why do I–and many like me–care whether gays are full and open participants in the broader American culture? Why do we support the right of gays and lesbians to marry, to adopt, to serve in the military, to be free of harassment and social opprobrium?
The answers, not surprisingly, are selfish.
First of all, I want to live in a country that is true to its most fundamental principles. In my current position, I teach graduate and undergraduate students about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I emphasize the importance of grounding public policy on the basic principles embodied in those documents, and the most basic of those is respect for the rights of the individual. In our system, rights are not derivative; that is, we don’t enjoy rights because we are members of particular groups. The American legal system begins with an incredibly important premise: the government must treat people as people. In our system, your behavior is the issue, not whether you are black or white, Christian or Muslim or Jewish, gay or straight. Such group affiliations are supposed to be legally irrelevant. While we clearly have a long way to go to live up to that ideal, it is an ideal many of us care about deeply. (Even haters acknowledge the importance of the principle–why else would they insist that homosexuality is behavior rather than an identity?)
The second selfish reason is more personal. One of my sons is gay. I want a society that accepts him as he is, a country in which he is as safe, as well-compensated, and as valued as his straight brothers. I want him to be able to form a committed relationship that is legally recognized and socially supported. I want him to have the option of raising children. I don’t want employers to be able to fire him with impunity, or the government to tax him more heavily, merely because he loves differently.
Whether it is my son or someone else’s, however, the truth of the matter is that no one is safe in a society that discriminates. If it is okay to pick on gays today, it can be okay to pick on Hispanics or Muslims tomorrow–and vice versa. That is why the gay community has a very real stake in the fight against intolerance wherever it emerges, and whatever its targets.
So–at Ted’s invitation–I’ve returned to my laptop and my monthly column. I hope readers, new and old, will feel free to respond to my periodic diatribes, and to suggest topics for mutual discussion and debate. I’m glad to be back.