GAY AND GRAY: Notes From a Political Punching Bag
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]
I'm sick of having my rights treated as something to kick around for political gain. It just keeps happening.
Last week, a Republican filibuster, supported and initiated by such "moderates" as John McCain and the two Republican senators from Maine, prevented addition of language to the defense appropriation bill that would have ended the military's ban on gay soldiers 60 days after a study of troop attitudes was concluded and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and the President approved the change.
This is not a hasty or ill-considered process! There are easily more than 50 votes in the Senate for the provision (already passed by the House), but not the 60 needed to get things moving.
In February, polls showed that 75 percent of the country want to end the ban -- but Republicans think they get an advantage by gumming up the Senate so nothing gets done. The issue of gays serving openly in the military provided a pretext. I've never had any desire to join the army; I have opposed most of our wars. But this is just cheap political grandstanding and I am sick of it.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled the "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" (Do Persecute) policy unconstitutional. There will be years of appeals unless the Senate somehow manages to act.
In August, a different federal judge ruled that California's Prop. 8, a state constitutional amendment that bars gay marriage, is unconstitutional because it denies gays equal protection of the law for no compelling reason.
That decision is awaiting appeal, a tortuous process since neither California's Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for governor, nor termed-out Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will file the papers.
Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman has no such scruples. To prove her allegiance to right wing prejudices, she promises to stick up for Prop. 8 in the courts if her megabuck campaign succeeds in November.
Away from the political heat, opposition to same sex marriage seems to be dying down. There have even been national polls that showed majority support for gay marriage.
Though the Tea Baggers don't usually focus their wacky wrath on gays, getting a hate on about us is often just under the surface. For example, on learning of an ACLU lawsuit to try to win some domestic partnership benefits for gays, Montana Tea Party leader Tim Ravndal wrote on FaceBook:
"Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my rights."
A commenter thought this confused thought hadn't gone far enough. Someone named Dennis Scranton responded:
"I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions."
The comment recalls exactly what happened to Matthew Shepard, left to die strung up on a barbed wire fence outside Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. Scranton could have been dismissed as a loony commenter if Ravndal hadn't replied, "Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?"
Perhaps no one should be too surprised that the news media have recently noticed that the Montana Republican Party platform calls for making homosexuality "illegal." Some Montana Republicans seem a little embarrassed by the discovery. Good, they should be.
I feel relatively safe as an old, comfortably off, white woman - but this sort of vicious bigotry is still dangerous to young gays who don't conform to conventional stereotypes.
It's a strange time to be gay - on the one hand, there's a lot of both real hate and politically motivated bigotry that can slap one in the face when least expected. On the other hand, positive changes are coming faster than I ever imagined possible. I am reminded of this saying, attributed (possibly erroneously) to Gandhi:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Revivalist Rant
These things are dangerous to us all as unfairness is unhealthy and makes for a culture that has an underlying ugliness that impacts other areas whether we know it or not. It has become a very big issue to me and should to all straights or gays.
These issues, all of them, are about equality and, from the other side, about forcing our views onto others. Nobody is forcing someone to become gay but what they want to do to those who are gay is make them deny their truth. None of us should be tolerant of that.
The problem Democrats have had is this need to have 60 votes on anything that matters. I wonder if the Republicans get say 54 as a majority, will they then bow down before the 60 vote mandate or do what Democrats should have done-- change the way the filibuster is used. Make them stand up there day after day and spout their 'logic' such as it is.
For now all any of them have to do is say they would do it and one person can stop anything from happening. This is impacting our judges and any controversial issue but a lot that aren't just to make Democrats look ineffectual.
I have a feeling if the Republicans gain the majority, they will be looking for a way around this thing they have begun. They will wait though until they have power and then watch out! I hope all voters think of this in November and if they don't want that Republican agenda, vote even if not thrilled with the Democrats right now. The alternative is lurking and it isn't pretty.
Posted by: Rain | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 06:33 AM
Rain: I completely agree that in most areas we have to vote to keep as many Democrats as we can in office -- and we also have to let them know they aren't doing the job we elected them to do! Are we capable of that level of political sophistication? The current situation is demanding that we be genuinely mature.
Posted by: janinsanfran | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 07:19 AM
Thanks to the ranting of the bigoted, anti-Semitic, prejudiced loud mouthed looney tunes we appear to be a nation of the stupid in the eyes of the world. Welcome to America, the country of red necks.
It is so sad that the advances happen so slowly and the retreats happen so quickly.
Politicians are always looking for scapegoats to focus on so people won't notice their incompetence and gays are the scapegoat de jour.
How did we allow the ignorant speak for the rest of us? How can we stop them?
Posted by: Darlene | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 07:45 AM
"How did we allow the ignorant speak for the rest of us? How can we stop them?"
We refuse to educate people. We cry every time school taxes go up because we no longer have children.
We forget about community when it suits us -- then complain when others forget us. We are afraid of anti-bullying laws, because somehow bullying people is part of our "religious expression", etc., etc., etc.
This nation is filled with barely literate people who "know what's right", even though they have no facts about the issue -- and do not bother to gather any.
We DEMAND OUR "freedom" -- but want to deny it to others (LGBT people, Muslims, immigrants, and other "undesirables").
In other words -- we have swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the American myth about the "rugged individual", "lone cowboy", etc., etc., etc. We've forgotten that it was, and is, COMMUNITY that built our nation. COMMUNITY that civilized the nation --- people caring about others, working together. Supporting EVERYONE'S rights.
We have forgotten how the GI Bill sent so many to college -- and built a strong middle class, a strong, vibrant, forward looking nation.
Now, it seems many folks look back at some never was, mythic past. In truth that past might well have been better for us -- because we were YOUNG, and had our future before us.
That's done. That's past. The job now is to begin to EDUCATE. To teach young folks how to THINK for themselves.
Too many folks want to use THEIR RELIGION to decide how OTHER PEOPLE MUST LIVE.
Perhaps that is why so many oppose Muslims -- they think the Muslims will do to them what THEY want to do to others.
Either you are, or you are not a CITIZEN. LGBT, etc. -- if you are an American citizen, you are entitled to the same rights and subject to the same responsibilities of all other citizens.
What's so hard about that.
Posted by: tinagrrl | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 08:35 AM
By the way, as an older lesbian in a long term committed relationship, I did run into some bigotry here in Texas. We even had a window shot out.
In casual conversation with a neighbor or two, I mentioned that we were sport shooters. We have entered some competitions, and viciously attack paper targets.
For some strange reason -- all the nastiness STOPPED.
There are advantages to living in a state that does not frown on self defense. 8^)
Posted by: tinagrrl | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 08:42 AM
I was just as angry. Thanks for this.
Posted by: Mage B | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 12:21 PM
You go, tinagrrl!
Posted by: Kathleen Noble | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 01:50 PM
Seriously, the veiled comments to Matthew S.'s murder are unconscionable. And your article is excellent. There's some hope, though: I participate in a political discussion group which includes a bunch of guys, one other woman and me, and all but one of us favored repealing DADT. And this is in PHOENIX and a lot of the guiys are quite conservative!
Posted by: Kathleen Noble | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 01:53 PM
tinagrrl, I agree with you about becoming educated--except that so many of the tea party types are over 65! The American public schools provided a top-notch education (if you were white, of course) back then. I don't have an explanation for the ignorant, uninformed-and-proud-of-it attitude of so many among my generation other than they're scared stiff. Maybe hanging on to the past is easier and more reassuring than facing the future. It's a complete mystery to me why older Americans would support a political movement that SO strongly advocates the dismantling of programs that help people--including them. I'm not at all religious, but one thing I know for sure: if I were, I would want nothing to do with the tea party brand of we're right/you're wrong Christianity.
Posted by: Elizabeth Rogers | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 04:05 PM
Ronni, I didn't know Nancy Belle but she had a geat philosophy about turning things that bother you into a tree. Maybe I need to start thinking in terms of the TREE party because I've got to admit that the tea party and its followers make me see shades of red I'd rather not see.
Posted by: Elizabeth Rogers | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 04:34 PM
"...then you win," says it all, and so we persevere for human rights, each in our own way. I think of a friend to whom this hetero gave support when she asked. Now, sadly, she has not lived to see what she and her then partner had envisioned. As voters, our work is clear. Not to sound corny, but, "...this too shall pass."
Posted by: joared | Tuesday, 28 September 2010 at 09:57 PM