Cartoon/Column: Gays in military, marriage equality are inevitable
Dec 15, 2010 at 03:00 pm
Posted by David Horsey on seattlepi.com:
"Wouldn't it be great if, for once, the U.S. Congress took the lead in social change instead of being dragged kicking and screaming to a decision long after most of the country has moved on?
"Apparently, that's not the nature of politics. Still, my holiday wish is for the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to be voted away by Christmas. Polls prove the country is ready. Surveys show the military is ready. Experience in the British and Israeli armed forces demonstrates no crisis is created by homosexuals serving openly. It is unlikely anyone fighting for this country in Afghanistan has failed to figure out if the guy next to him is gay, while also appreciating how that soldier is a tough son-of-a-gun.
"The only ones who seem to fret about gay and lesbian soldiers are Republican senators and House members catering to a loud contingent of social conservatives who think national policy should be dictated by 3,000-year-old religious taboos.
"Oh, and then there's John McCain. Just as he has with tax cuts for the wealthy and immigration policy, McCain has flip-flopped on gays in the military. Ever the maverick, he now has gone 'all mavericky,' in Sarah Palin's phrase, against his own better self. He is one old soldier who should have just faded away.
"Looking back through our history, it has seldom been Congress that has led the way to social progress. The disenfranchised and disdained have had to push and protest and struggle and die in order to get the politicians to finally move. Black Americans and other minorities put their lives on the line time after time to win their liberties, one by one. The legislation that gave women the vote, workers the right to organize, children the right not to be exploited and all citizens the right to clean air and water and food did not come because a majority of lawmakers simply got together to do the right thing.
"I recognize that past realities are hugely complicated, but today it seems insane that Americans had to fight against each other in their bloodiest war in order to end slavery.
"Slavery? How could anyone have ever thought slavery was right? Well, there are these passages in the Bible that said it was OK, so…
"If only we could recognize where history is taking us and nimbly leap the ramparts of the dying order. Future Americans will look back on this moment with disdain, wondering why anyone would have thought it made sense to deny gays and lesbians the opportunity to serve their country in battle. And, not only that, but generations to come will also find it curious that those who hold the institution of marriage sacred fought so hard to keep homosexuals from becoming old married folks.
... "I've never felt any repulsion to homosexuality. In my younger years, I simply didn't know much about it. As life went on, I came to know co-workers and friends who were gay and lesbian and learned the plain truth: they were no different from anyone else I knew, except in the way nature had wired their sexuality.
"Still, until recently, I really did not see why civil unions were not an adequate vehicle for gays and lesbians who sought to commit to each other and enjoy the same legal rights and obligations as straight couples. Plenty of liberals, including President Obama, continue to see it that way. But an essay by Andrew Sullivan began to turn my thinking around.
"Sullivan, a gay man, right-leaning columnist and former editor of the New Republic, has been a passionate advocate for the freedom to marry. He makes many intelligent points, but the one that hit home with me was his most personal. He described the experience of taking his partner along on visits to his family. No matter how committed and how caring the relationship, the partner was always the boyfriend, someone welcomed but still outside the family circle. Only when marriage equality began to be legalized in a few states and Sullivan was able to come home and announce he was getting married to the person he loved did the dynamic change. Marriage suddenly made that person part of the story, part of the heritage, fully integrated into the family's identity.
"Ironically, it was a matter of family values. I could see how this mattered and it flipped my thinking from 'why do they need to marry?' to 'why not?'
"Why not, indeed? Purely on legal terms, it is no longer a winning argument to say the government has a right to bar certain people from a state-sanctioned domestic arrangement available to all other citizens. As the challenge to California's marriage equality ban moves through the courts, it becomes ever more clear that the legal rationale for this discriminatory practice is disintegrating. Even the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court may fracture on this issue when it is finally brought before them.
"If and when that happens, plenty of senators and representatives of a certain political persuasion will rush in to 'stand athwart history shouting stop!' That, after all, is how William F. Buckley described the stance of true conservatives. But I'm not sure even Buckley, if he were still alive, would be willing to make the case for blocking this particular evolution in our society. It is both reasonable and inevitable.
"Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same."
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