Thursday, May 10, 2012

On evolution

Being gay is being civically "other", always on the outside, looking in.  As blogger Barry Yeoman writes,
I attend a friend's heterosexual wedding; talk at a party with someone who volunteers with his son's Boy Scout troop; or receive an invitation to donate blood during a drive—and find myself viewing all those experiences as outside to my own. Then I generalize to other things, because it has become a habit. This is your world. It is not mine. 
This sense that many of these basic rituals are available to others but not to me can't help but alter my relationship to civitas. Self-identifying as American is predicated on some elemental expectations: I can bind my financial life to another's. I can volunteer my time to help foster our community's youth. I can volunteer my healthy blood to save a life. Take away these basic assumptions, and patriotism means very little. Funny, but I don't get angry when I think of this, or even sad. It just is. 
Multiply me by a few million, and think about how much civic energy is squandered as a result.
But yesterday, that changed.  Yesterday, the president said, yes, he supports marriage equality, and he does so because he's a Christian.  Andrew Sullivan describes it as "letting go of fear".   More than one has compared it to Harry Truman in 1948, an election year, who signed an unpopular order to integrate the military over the opposition of (you guessed it) the South.

I phoned the white house to say thanks and found myself tearing up.  E. J. Graff sums up my feelings pretty well. 
There's something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife—well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion...
Of course the battle is not yet won.  But Chris Geidner at Metroweekly argues that this is all of a piece with other recent moves by the Administration, part of that arc towards justice.  Nate Silver, uber meta-pollster, finds more support than opposition.  Rob Tisinai doesn't care about the calculated politics of it.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s happened Obama can claim another civil rights first. He hasn’t just broken the color barrier — he’s opened the yellow brick road. He’s giving back, repaying the fighters and activists of previous generations who made his own election possible, so that now, somewhere, in a tiny little no-name corner of the nation, a bright and talented gay kid has suddenly realized: I can be president.
And as  Jonathan Rauch said,
The courts, as Obama, the former law professor, must be well aware, will take notice. Two big gay-rights cases--one challenging California's revocation of gay marriage, the other challenging the Defense of Marriage Act--are on their way toward the Supreme Court. With his switch from ambivalence to advocacy, Obama is sending a signal to the courts that the country is ready for gay marriage, giving them more cover to uphold it. Courts may not go by poll results, but they do like to stay within the mainstream. And Obama has just moved it.
Justice Kennedy, are you listening? 

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