Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tough Year for Gay Rights

I am looking forward to our traditional New Year’s Eve jaunt to the co-housing community in Cotati to party hearty with our friends Eris and Leslie and the other co-housing families. Eris and Leslie, lesbians, have been partners for a dozen years or more and this blog is in honor of them because it has been a tough year for gays. They were stripped of their civil rights in the last election and have felt deeply betrayed.

Last summer, when the state legislature ruled to allow gays to marry, Eris and Leslie went to city hall immediately and filed for their marriage license. They got married many years ago in a non-legal ceremony. Eris told me she had not realized how important it was to her to be legitimately recognized as Leslie’s wife until they actually held the paper in their hands. She still tears up talking about it. She never thought she’d be granted this right in her lifetime. She wrote a letter to the California Legislature thanking them for allowing her to marry the woman she loves. So you can imagine the grief, anger, and frustration she felt only months later when the rug was pulled out from under her. They are still waiting to find out if their marriage has been voided. Apparently Ken Starr (yes, THAT Ken Starr) is going to bat for the religious fanatics and attempting to have all previous gay marriages in California nullified in court.

The decision to pass Prop. 8 was engineered by Christian religious fanatics from outside the state. It is well-known that the Mormon Church poured millions of dollars into the Yes on Prop. 8 Campaign by urging Mormons to donate for advertising. Churches in Idaho and the deep South also talked church members into contributing thousands to this negative campaign. The advertising that was bought with their money terrified conservative voters by falsely asserting that their churches would lose their nonprofit status if they refused to marry gay couples and by falsely stating that the public schools would be required to teach children as young as five about sex education in a way that described gay sex in detail (what idiocy). This type of scare tactic is outrageous. And it continues to play on the deep-seated prejudicial stereotype that gays are sexual predators who will corrupt, endanger, and prey on children. I sadly remember a friend of mine, a gay man, who, in the 1970s taught preschool. He had long blonde hair, which he crammed up into a wig to go to work. He was wonderful with the children and had found his niche and his career. He lived in terror that he would be exposed as a gay and that this would prevent him from teaching for the rest of his life. The Yes on Prop. 8 campaign points out that we are barely a whisper away from those days.

The saddest thing about oppression is that it interferes with the ability of people to love one another, on every level. We talk big talk about many freedoms, but perhaps the most basic is the freedom to love. Slavery exploded Black families. Colonization disintegrated Native families. Nazism reduced Jewish families to ashes. Homophobia attempts to destroy gay families. It goes on and on. When will we finally have a society that allows love to flourish? That supports and nurtures families? That recognizes the many shapes and forms and sizes and colors and wondrous diversity of love?

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