The Day the World Didn’t End - Auspicious signs of LGBT progress.
When people say a Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality would be the end of America, or the worst thing since slavery, or the ultimate calamity, what do they really mean? That their spouses will leave them? Their houses will collapse? Nuclear warheads will be launched? Surely they are not talking about global warming, toxic oil spills, or honeybees dying, since those things are already happening. Perhaps they are doing a reverse fake that requires them to act like drama queens.
Ted Cruz calls “mandatory gay marriage” the “greatest threat we’ve ever seen,” and warns that “liberal fascism” imperils religious freedom. Bobby Jindal’s desperate posturing turns him into The Incredible Shrinking Governor. Mike Huckabee vows to ignore SCOTUS, because the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being. Rick Santorum pledges to fight a pro-gay ruling because he missed biology class and gets gay sex and bestiality confused. Scott Walker, in a lucid moment, says his opinion doesn’t matter. Several candidates forget their meds and are overtaken by a compulsion to crash gay weddings.
Most of them seem to realize they are standing on a rapidly eroding sandbar. Some observers suggest a pro-gay decision this month will let GOP candidates off the hook in 2016. That, I suspect, underestimates the persistence of dead-enders. After all, some southerners still cling to their Lost Cause 150 years after the Civil War’s end. Our opponents bellow and bluster like hikers trying to scare off a bear, but the big, dark stranger keeps closing in, as if their Bible study tape were switched with a porn fantasy.
What a difference two generations make. The 8th and 10th grade students I recently met with to talk about LGBT organizing were unfazed by apocalyptic prophecies. They wanted tips on public policy advocacy after visiting their representatives on Capitol Hill. As each group trooped into the lounge at The DC Center for the LGBT Community, I tried to imagine my high school teachers in the 1970s bringing a gay activist in to give a lecture.
The teens roll their eyes at the right’s dire predictions and threats of insurrection. They take equality for granted with an ease that eludes many politicians. Their altered expectations will drive change. As Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said at a coalition event last week, we are winning.
The stream of vitriol from the far right will eventually abate. That is my thought as I relax in the park on a balmy afternoon. It is a day for pleasant thoughts, with dogs and children cavorting as if time stands still. Somewhere, I know, the haters and fearmongers continue working their mischief, even exporting it. Freedom to do good is also freedom to do evil.
But we all need a break. Daydreaming on warm summer days, and books that stretched my imagination, taught my younger self that solitude could be liberating. Shutting out the world for an afternoon makes room to find your own voice. Sometimes, I tell the visiting students, you have to disengage from your nastiest foes. They pay no rent for space in your head.
All around us we see auspicious signs. The movement to end the dangerous quackery of conversion therapy is gaining momentum. Scott Lively faces trial in federal court for crimes against humanity for instigating persecution in Uganda. Pepe Julian Onziema, the Ugandan activist and trans man who won a GLAAD Media Award for his stint on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, had his nation’s ambassador in the audience when he spoke at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. Irish drag star Panti Bliss was onstage taking selfies with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald on May 23 as the “Yes” votes for marriage equality rolled in. A rainbow over Dublin heralded the breakthrough.
At a Dupont Circle pub called McClellan’s Retreat that Saturday night, friends and I toasted the Irish, and Miss Bliss in particular, with a concoction of Jameson’s, Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Port, Raspberry Homme, and Tiki Bitters called a Musket & Saber.
Each to his own taste, of course. Perhaps Justice Kennedy prefers his whiskey straight.
Richard J. Rosendall, a writer and activist. Email Richard Rosendall