Thursday, December 11, 2008

Newsweek Precipitates The Gay Rights Tipping Point

One result of the passage of Proposition 8 in California and the subsequent backlash (coinciding with Obama's election on a platform of inclusion) is that we may be reaching a kind of gay rights tipping point in the culture at large: the point at which the majority begins to start thinking of gay issues in civil rights terms, begins to actual embrace gay equality and take a moral stand against discrimination.

It is much the same today for gays, I think, as the mid-seventies for women, the late sixties for blacks. It is no longer just gay people advocating for our broader inclusion in society; saying the "gay" word is no longer immediately toxic for politicians; a significant vocal minority of straight allies have opened their eyes to the inequality, and are now willing to speak up about it. And those who would hide behind religion or other zealotry to promote discrimination are starting to find themselves - for the first time - on the defensive.

I open with all this to introduce this article on the religious case for gay marriage in Newsweek - which provides a framework for a religious understanding of gay equality - and this article in Power Line, summarizing the far right-wing backlash.

The argument has shifted, subtly, but dramatically. It is no longer about whether gays should be "tolerated." It is no longer considered "balanced" journalism to have to "balance" any discussion of gays and their issues with those who would question whether gays themselves are moral or legitimate.

Instead, the argument is about what "mainstream" means. Newsweek is attempting to frame a discussion about religious acceptance of gays as being, just by itself, mainstream - as would be a discussion about the black middle class or woman's roles in the workplace. Those who would stigmatize gays suddenly find it is THEIR anti-gay viewpoint that's the excluded minority, the questioned viewpoint, that OUTSIDE viewpoint that's considered as odious as racism or sexism.

This is what they have feared, all along: that the day would come when it would be considered "bigoted" to object to gay people. That they would no longer be able to hide behind their Bible and cry for tolerance for their bigotry. That they would no longer be on the offensive in society, but find themselves suddenly in the minority of opinion, and increasingly on the defensive.

Their reaction has been swift and fierce
. Because they cannot let this tide turn - because they have finally been cornered on their bigotry. They have finally run out of arguments to justify their opinions as anything other than "troglodytish," to quote one of their own phrases. They have found that their one and last reaction, to say "because the Bible tells me so," is now longer enough - no longer cows the mainstream into abject silence - and that's a development they can't countenance, not without attempting to totally discredit the messenger as "in the tank." In the way that anyone who doesn't buy into their viewpoint is "in the tank."

But it's a story we've heard before. The same phenomenon happened with women. And Blacks. And Asians. And anyone who fought for their full equality in this society, and had to slowly but surely argue for their equality against the fierce backlash of those who's positions and power were most threatened by change in status of a despised minority: whether those people be white slaveowners, businessmen exploiting cheap Asian labor, men satisfied with their wives keeping a silent and subservient place in the home, or religious fakes and self-aggrandizing fanatics who make millions of dollars and build vast empires by stigmatizing gay people.

It's interesting - when you point out to the religious zeolots the passages in the Bible that were used thirty years ago to justify that women stay in the home, the passages used fifty years ago to justify that black people were inferior and interracial marriage shouldn't be allowed, the passages that were used a hundred and fifty years ago to justify owning slaves - when you point these passages out, people say, "oh, well, those passages are parables...they aren't meant to be taken literally." But when it comes to the few English interpretations of the Bible (which aren't the original meaning, by the way) where it supposedly condemns gay people, then suddenly it's not a parable meant for interpretation, it's suddenly literal. But it's a real question: which is it? Literal? Or a parable? It can't be both - you can't just pick and choose when it suits you.

And these right-wing profiteers know that no one would take them seriously if they tried to argue that people should take everything in the Bible literally. Why, they'd be...Al Qaeda. No, that's just not a very tenable tact for them to take. So all they can do, really, is attempt to rant and obscure, as the public wakes up, and turns against them.

Face it, my right-wing friends. The day when the mainstream takes away your gay whipping boys has come. The day you can hide behind your Bibles is quickly going to end. Bible or not, look forward to hearing yourselves being described as bigots. And not just by gay people, but by the "mainstream" press.

It's a shoe whose measurements have been assiduously taken over the past thirty years...and I fear it will be very easy...and very slip you into it.

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