The Word on the Street
In the days following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on the constitutionality of same sex marriage, there has been a lot of feedback from many different groups and individuals. As expected, the anticipated bigotry of the anti-LGBT collective has been verbalized and recorded. But this article is not about them. This article is about those who stand in support, and who are willing to say so, along with just two on the other side.
There was a terrific Facebook post by my friend Carl. To quote his post: “Walking up Rehoboth Ave., coming from Dos Locos with Dan. We were holding hands as we normally do when a man and lady stopped us. They congratulated us on the marriage equality ruling on Friday. It took me so by surprise but made me feel very happy. It was so nice of them to recognize us and voice their support.” This post received 156 likes! Among the comments included this gem from Gladys: “You have many straight allies. Far more than you might think. National polls tell the story.”
As all the comments on this post reflected, this is a story that makes us smile. It is heartwarming to hear stories of straight people sharing those comments out of the blue, unsolicited. Indeed, polls do tell us that there is tremendous support for marriage equality. But polls are just numbers. I wanted to hear from people on the street as to what their thoughts were. I spent some time on Rehoboth Ave. asking strangers for their thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. It was an open-ended question, allowing them to say honestly what they thought about it. Here are some of their responses:
Husband: “I have no objections.” Wife: “I am all for it. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. I have many gay and lesbian friends. They deserve this.” It was interesting how this husband was sort of non-committal, but his wife was adamantly supportive.
Man: “I don’t really know.” [Then, after further thought] “I don’t have a problem with it.” At first I thought this person was being evasive, thinking that I expected to hear him voice support. But I suppose there are many straight people who don’t give much thought to the subject, due to the lack of personal contact or relationships with gays. (At least to their knowledge!)
Woman: “I’m old fashioned. I just don’t understand. My kids would not want me to say that.” The honesty of this woman was refreshing, even though she does not support same sex marriage. But she seemed to realize that her position is not in sync with much of the world, including her own grown children. When she stated that she does not understand, I wanted to walk her over to CAMP Rehoboth and introduce her to some folks who could help her understand. I wanted to tell her that we don’t always have to understand, but we do need to accept. It’s all about love!
Man: “It’s time! It’s a good thing. It doesn’t directly affect my life. We should be expanding liberties, not restricting them.” This was refreshing to hear someone say that even though the ruling does not affect his life, he is still supportive of it. He brought into our conversation a more global perspective by expressing his desire for expanding liberties, rather than restricting them.
Man (and I quote verbatim): “It don’t bother me one bit! Everybody gotta be happy!” At this point in my sidewalk interviews, I was trying to elicit opinions on the Supreme Court ruling from people who I thought would have been opposed. This gentleman was one who surprised me with his vocal support of the ruling.
The only other negative response I got from these impromptu interviews came in a qualified manner. Man: “I don’t support it. But I don’t fight it, either. My wife works with a lot of gays, so she feels differently about it than I do.” Oh, if only other straights who are opposed to same sex marriage would not then also fight it! At the risk of overworking a cliché, Live and let live! What bothers me so much about the outright condemnation of straights who are anti-gay is that even if it does not affect their lives, they do not want to make any allowance for the gay community to enjoy a normal, happy, loving life. This is something that we straights take for granted.
One insight I gained from conducting these street interviews—I cannot pre-judge people! I intentionally attempted to interview people who I thought would express a negative reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. I was pleasantly surprised by their positive statements. How people appear and what they think or have experienced in their lives cannot be contained, or constrained, in our preconceptions of them. If I have learned one thing in life that causes me to reach out in support and friendship to others, this is it!
So, I say to Carl and Dan, keep holding hands as you walk the streets of Rehoboth Beach, or wherever you find yourselves. You are a couple who love each other. Just as my wife Marti and I hold hands unabashedly, you must do the same.