Monday, February 16, 2004
This morning, someone e-mailed to ask me why it was such a big deal that San Francisco is issuing wedding permits to same-sex couples, why gay and lesbian couples can't be content to be queer without government sanction of their unions. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to respond to such a question. I've been trying to steer clear of politics, for the most part, if only because I'm not a political commentator. But the truth is that issues of equality for gays, lesbians and transgendered persons is at least a subtext to much of my writing. So answering this question here seems appropriate.
I spent most of my childhood in a small semi-rural town in Alabama. We moved to this town in 1972 and when I began third grade there (having begun school elsewhere) the elementary school had only recently been desegregated. I grew up with the tension that followed. I listened to racist relatives who persisted in the belief that, because of segregation, white girls would be raped by black boys and riots would ensue and all sorts of bullshit of the sort. The fabric of American society would be destroyed if African-Americans were treated as human beings. For me, and I should think for a lot of other people my age, segregation isn't something from the history books. It's something we witnessed first hand, especially if we grew up in the South. I saw black children harassed, by adults and other children, for being black.
At the moment, marriage in America is, at best, segregated, reserving the institution of marriage for heterosexuals and forbidding that right to gay Americans. Offers of "civil unions" are pretty much the same as the "separate but equal" policies that faced blacks half a century ago. We were supposed to have learned then that equality cannot exist in the face of separation. Obviously, a lot of us didn't. And that's what the fuss in San Francisco and Massachusetts is about. Whether or not I personally care that the US government sanctions my same-sex relationship, denying me the benefits that legal marriage bestows upon het marriages is not only unconstitutional, it's the same sort of bigotry those black children faced in Alabama back in the early 1970s. And the people who are playing the religion card in an effort to justify their bigotry should remember that the same card was played in defense of racism only a few decades ago (in some circles, it's still being played). Ultimately, of course, how your religion shapes your views on homosexuality is irrelevant, as anti-gay laws based on the teachings of any religion violate separation of church and state.
In the end, though, it's a lot simpler than history and politics and religion. Tens of millions of Americans are no longer willing to accept the status of second-class citizen in order to accommodate the fears and prejudices of a vocal minority. And that's why it's such a big deal that San Francisco is issuing wedding permits to same-sex couples, why gay and lesbian couples can't, and should not, be content to be queer without government sanction of our unions.
Yesterday, the headache ruled my every breath. We began work on Chapter Two of Murder of Angels, but after about half an hour, I went back to bed. Later in the afternoon, I was feeling well enough to force myself to finish the chapter. After dinner, the pain and nausea had backed off enough that we were able to get through Chapter Three, finishing up just before 11 p.m.. Today the pain is gone and we'll do Four and Five. I rarely get headaches and for that I am extremely grateful. Pain that makes me unable to think is unacceptable.