The battle at the Indiana Statehouse over adding “four words and a comma” to the state civil rights law has brought back some interesting memories.
I first began writing a column for the Word, a newspaper serving Indiana’s gay community, some 25 years ago. I stopped when the Word changed ownership, but the new editor (an old friend) asked me to come back, and I agreed.
Then I did something else.
I went into my files and reviewed some of my earliest Word columns. That review left me with two contradictory impressions: how dramatically things have changed—and how little.
Here, for example, are excerpts from a column from the year 2000. Just 16 years ago.
My youngest son recently attended the wedding of two co-workers. It was a lovely affair—formal, at an expensive Chicago hotel, conducted with meticulous attention to detail.
The program book included a message from the bride and groom, reciting how enthusiastic they were to enter into wedded life together, how sure they were that matrimony was the right choice for them. In fact, they said, there was only one hesitation, one fact that gave rise to a certain reluctance to marry: the fact that others were legally prevented from doing likewise. It seemed unfair that the status of matrimony was available to them, a man and a woman, and not available to others merely because they were of the same gender. The message concluded with a request that those present, who had shared the happy day with this particular couple, work toward a time “when everyone can enter into the institution of marriage and have their union recognized by society and the state.”
I couldn’t help thinking about the implications of this simple, powerful statement….
What would happen to the pervasive bigotry against gays and lesbians if hundreds, then thousands, of heterosexuals added similar paragraphs to their wedding programs? What if every church and synagogue that believes in human dignity added such language to their bulletins? What if businesses catering to families advertised for business by interpreting “family” in an inclusive and affirming way?
That would change the world.
What a contrast I see between my son’s friends and the group of shrill and homophobic clerics who called a press conference in Washington last week to announce that God hates homosexuality…
I am confident that, if there is indeed a judgment day, a good and just God will offer a special place in heaven to the young couple whose love extended beyond each other to embrace the human community and all its members.
The real question is, how would that good and just God respond to those who used the name of the Lord to justify their hatreds and excuse their bigotries?
As we now know, what did “change the world” was the courage of thousands of LGBT people who refused to live dishonestly and who “came out”–often with the support of their families and allies, but sometimes in the face of enormous hostility.
Last year, marriage equality became the law of the land, and survey research tells us that solid majorities of Americans now endorse marriage equality and support the extension of full civil rights protections to the gay community.
What didn’t change, of course, is the fury of the religious extremists—including Indiana’s Governor—who continue to use their religions and their crabbed versions of Deity to justify homophobia and discrimination. They are out in force to keep the Indiana General Assembly from adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Indiana’s civil rights law. Their persistence is why the rest of us can’t rest.