In light of the State Supreme Court's hearing on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage today, I conducted an extremely unscientific poll in all of my English classes. I asked them if they were for or against gay marriage and counted hands. I had a feeling that the majority would be for it (after all, this is the Bay Area), but even I was surprised by the results.
By any measure, that's a huge blowout. Interestingly, no females voted against, although some did abstain.
About half the comments I got from the boys who said they were against it was "it's nasty, unnatural" etc. The other half went with "it's against my religion." One went with: "If we normalize (my word, not his) gayness, then lots more people would be gay, and we wouldn't have enough people reproducing" while another went with an analogy to alcoholics making up about 10% of the population and not wanting to make that acceptable. I didn't really get it. At any rate, I doubt the lawyers politicking against gay marriages in court went with any of those arguments.
The thing is, there really aren't any arguments that do make sense, are there? Everyone who leads off in their stance against same-sex unions starts with, "I have nothing against gay people, but..." Then they explain their stance, but it really comes down to the fact that they feel homosexuality being more accepted would be worse for society. In other words, they have nothing against gay people as long as they don't want the same rights, etc. They gotta know their place, in other words. Sound familiar?
Then there's the stance of so-called supporters of gay rights like high-profile Dems Obama and Clinton, who say they're against gay marriage but very much for civil unions, which apparently are different only in name. It's a doctrine that used to be referred to as "separate but equal." That logic has a familiar ring to it, as well.
I've been reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my frosh, and every time I do, I'm struck by how much insight it has into the world of people's biases and bigotry, all told through the eyes of a child. In particular, the scene where Dill cries after watching the prosecuting attorney demean and belittle Tom Robinson on the stand strikes me as especially poignant. He is told by an adult (a man who pretends to be a drunk so that people will have a reason for his preference to live among blacks, with a black wife and mixed offspring) that when he grows up he won't cry anymore. But Dill hasn't been taught prejudice yet, and through his eyes, and Scout's, and Jem's, we see the injustice of the situation. Because it's pretty clear if you just see it for what it is, and wipe away all the jaded preconceptions that we pick up as we go along through life. They see a good black man who tried to help a pathetic white girl, and in turn is being made a victim of the jealousy and hatred of a white trash citizen who everyone knows to be despicable. Simple. Case closed.
I'm reminded of this when most of my kids gave their matter-of-fact reasons for being in favor of gay marriage: "What's the big deal?"..."Why does it affect straight people's marriages or their lives at all?" "Why shouldn't two people of the same sex who are in love and want to be together be allowed to do the same thing people of the opposite sex are?" Amazingly common sense ideas, and nothing like the hoops those anti-marriage lawyers had to jump through today in order to disguise what's at the root of all this outrage: Gays are evil. They're not normal. They're scary. They'll corrupt our children. They're promiscuous and immoral. Which are the same thoughts those people in the fictional jury box in Maycomb County have when they convict Tom Robinson. Stay in charge. The status quo is safer.
The problem for them: Progress marches inexorably forward. Young people gradually slough off the biases of the old. Those who stand opposing same-sex marriage now are tugging on the wrong end of history. They're George Wallace, standing in front of the school in Alabama, shouting about segregation forever.
There's still time for you haters out there. Let me put it into terms you can understand: ATONE FOR THINE SINS. ACCEPT HUMAN COMPASSION AND EQUALITY AS THY SAVIOR. LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, EVEN IF HE WEARS EYELINER.