“Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.” –NYS Senator Roy McDonald, explaining why he decided to support the Marriage Equality Bill
I visited family this weekend, and as I live in New York, the topic of conversation with my mother turned to the Marriage Equality Bill that’s facing our Senate this week. I said how I’d been active in campaigning to get it passed (not as active as I’d like, as an aside – if I didn’t have to go to work, I’d be at the Capitol singing this week). Her response? “I don’t know why it matters to you. You’re not gay.”
Now, please, please note, my mother is not a homophobe. She’s remarkably open-minded about homosexuality. I don’t think she thinks the bill should pass, but she has religious objections to it, and isn’t loud and shouty about it. Someone we both love very much recently came out, and she’s been really wonderful about it.
My answer was, as my answers often are when confronted with something as huge as this, inadequate. I believe I stammered something along the lines of, “It’s important. It’s important for our state. And it’s right. It’s just the right thing to do.”
I’m one of those people who thinks of responses days later to things. Someone insults me and I wake up at 3 a.m. two days later with “Yeah, well, at least I don’t think accessorizing means wearing sunglasses as a headband!” (That’s a bad example, but you get the idea.)
My first belated thought was the Niemoller quote: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” This is a bit of overkill, but the idea is sound. When it’s the right thing to do, it doesn’t matter if you identify with the group that’s being discriminated against. I’m not mentally challenged, but I take offense at the use of the word “retarded.” I’m not elderly, but I take offense at abuse targeted at that demographic. I’m not African-American, but I find the KKK abhorrent. I don’t have to have sex with women to think that marriage should be equal and available to everyone in my beloved state, regardless of the gender they love.
I am also a theater person, so of course, through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with a number of gay men and women. And I’m about to blow your mind right now, so hold on tight: THEY ARE JUST LIKE US. They work, pay bills, vote, contribute to society, have children – all the things straight people do. I know! Crazy, right? And? They also fall in love. But here in New York, they have to leave the state to get married. They can have a ceremony here, but they can’t officially marry. Most of the couples I know have gone to Massachusetts (and thank you, Massachusetts, for your awesomeness and proximity.) They’re not asking for anything other than equal rights. If you, as a straight person, fall in love with another straight person, you can marry him or her. It’s a given. You don’t even have to think twice about it. If you’re gay, it’s a process, and it’s work, and it’s labor, and it’s traveling out of the state where you’ve always lived, and where you choose to continue to live, to solemnize your commitment to the person you love, and coordinating that with family and friends. This is stupid and unfair and childish. It’s a matter of miles, for some people. It’s the matter of an arbitrary border, for the love of Pete.
Related to the above: spoiler alert, but gay marriages make you cry just as much as straight marriages do. It’s true. Because love is love, and when two people are committing to spend their lives together, and taking that crazy, insane leap into something that’s, statistically, got a better than 50% chance of failure, it’s awe-inspiring, and breathtaking, and if you have a heart, you cry.
I may not be gay, but I have family members who are; I have close friends who are; parents of close friends who are; role models throughout my life, from childhood to now, who are. If they’re not worth speaking up for, who is? I know they’d do it for me, without the slightest hesitation. These are the people who’ve helped me become the woman I am, who have helped mold me, held my hand through some of the toughest times of my life, laughed and cried with me, supported me, given me a place to go when I didn’t have one. They aren’t asking for a kidney (although I’d probably offer one of those to some of them, too, I’m not going to lie about that.) They’re asking for the same rights I have (a right, mind you, that I don’t even choose to use, and probably never will. I wish we could transfer our ability to marry to a couple that deserves it. I’d gladly give mine up.)
It is also important to note that I am not religious, although I was raised so, and do not identify myself with any organized religion. I was, however, raised so, as I mentioned. I know the Bible. I know the passages the religious protesters are quoting. However, the Bible was not meant to be a static document. It was meant to change as the times changed. There are many rules that Christians no longer follow; why have they latched onto this one as an absolute? It’s not even one of the Ten Commandments! If you’re going to argue that the Bible says it’s wrong, then you’d better not be eating shellfish or pork, or wearing clothing woven of two types of material, or you are a hypocrite. You can’t pick and choose. You do it all, or you do none of it. Don’t hide behind a book written before we had electricity. And Jesus was all about love, so don’t tell me that if he was around today, he wouldn’t be on the side of the homosexuals. He was a champion of people who were being treated unfairly and being downtrodden. I sometimes like to think of Jesus up in heaven shaking his head and saying, “Seriously! Stop putting words in my mouth! You know damn WELL the only thing I said that was 100% irrefutable was “love one another as I have loved you” and you KEEP IGNORING IT!”
Also, one last, small, tiny thing: straight people? It is none of your business, if homosexual couples want to marry. Who exactly died and left you in charge of the planet, really? No one is forcing you to marry someone of your own sex, so keep your eyes on your own test, ok?
If I could go back and say something to my mother, it would be this: “I’m doing this because it is the right thing to do; because it is the right time to do it; because I love my state and I love my friends and I believe they deserve the same rights and privileges as everyone else has; and because you and Dad taught me that if you see injustice being done, you don’t stand idly by – you do something about it. You leave the world in a little better shape than it was when you came in.”
(My title is from Iowa Representative Ed Fallon – read his speech here. Inspiring and wonderful.)