Why gay marriage opponents lost: The social angle

John just posted a piece about the legal and logical reasons why gay marriage opponents have essentially lost the fight against marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

I figured I’d chime in with the other angle, the social one, as to why we went from support for gay marriage being a very small minority to majority support in a rather short period of time.

First, a rather interesting graphic from the always entertaining and insightful xkcd:

Marriage, by xkcd, included via Creative Commons permission

In truth, we have one man to thank for much of it: Harvey Milk.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk

One of Milk’s campaign slogans was “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” Many don’t remember, but another cornerstone of his campaign for mayor of San Francisco in 1978 was Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, so named after John Briggs, state legislator from Orange County.

The proposition also had the backing of Anita Bryant of the oxymoronically named “Save Our Children.”

Prop 6 would have banned gay people from working in public schools, at any level. The language of the proposition would have also banned anybody known publicly to be in favor of gay rights. That’s right: If you were a school teacher and publicly made any pro-gay remark, you could be summarily fired.

The proposition lost, fortunately, 58-42.

To their credit, opposition to Prop 6 is what led to the founding of the Log Cabin Republicans in 1977. And the chances of defeating the proposition did not look good in September 1978 when it was ahead in the polls, with 66% of Californians in favor of it.

In one of his moments of non-evilness, Governor Ronald Reagan declared that he was opposed to the measure, and even penned an editorial in the LA Herald-Examiner. If you want to hear some real leadership though, check out this video-illustrated audio recording of Mayor Harvey Milk:

That was the start. When the homophobes would have had gay people remain invisible, in the closet, leaders like Harvey Milk were saying it would take the courage of being out, proud, and visible to change how straight people saw gay people. To hide, to be invisible gave unwarranted legitimacy to the position there was something wrong with being gay, something deserving of shame.

This was also the genesis and necessity of Gay Pride parades.

It was a long, long struggle just for ‘tolerance,’ much less the real goal: acceptance. For many years, it didn’t look good. Homophobes like Bryant were successful in repealing anti-discrimination measures.  States like Oklahoma and Arkansas did pass laws banning gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Many states passed laws banning gay people from adopting.

And of course, we shouldn’t forget how when Governor Reagan became President Reagan, he completely ignored the AIDS/HIV epidemic for nearly six years, well into his second term. Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, actually laughed in 1982 about the fact that an estimated 1 in 3 of those infected were dying. Speakes found it particularly funny that the sick and dying were gay:

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement–the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
Q: No, I don’t.
MR. SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.
Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President–
MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any–
Q: Nobody knows?
MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping–
MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no–(laughter)–no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.
Q: Didn’t say that?
MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)
Q: Because I love you, Larry, that’s why. (Laughter.)
MR. SPEAKES: Oh, I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
Q: Oh, I retract that.
MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
Q: It’s too late.

Whenever it seemed like there might be progress — whether it was gays being permitted to serve openly in the military, or the first serious proposals that maybe gay and lesbian couples should have some partnership rights — the door was slammed in our faces. First “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” then the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Sadly, both of these measures had strong bipartisan and popular support.

Something began to shift with the turn of the millennium, however, and most of it was because of what had been happening over the previous 20-25 years. (Not coincidentally, 20-25 years is considered roughly a ‘generation.’)

Back in the 1960s and 70s, you probably would have found only a few people who would say they knew someone gay. The truth is, they probably did, but weren’t aware.  Remember, the whole point of the closet was to be invisible. It would be “oh, just those two ladies who’ve lived with each other for decades.” Or the “confirmed bachelor neighbor” who always seemed to have a handsome friend with him.

By the time we got to the late 1990s, there weren’t nearly as many people who would or could say the same. It seems like everybody knew someone who was gay, and increasing numbers were gay family members.

So along comes 2003 and the marriage cases in Massachusetts. Where the question simply was:

“We know these people are gay. We know they’ve been committed to each other for years and even decades in some cases. Some are raising children together. In every aspect but one — the physical gender of the two adults involved — they meet the traditional definition of ‘family.’ Many have even solemnized their relationships within accepting religions. Who is harmed in any way if we extend the legal definition of civil marriage to include them?”

The answer, of course, is no one. No one is harmed.

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

The cover of the Arkansas Times.

Indeed, it’s been ridiculously easy for gay and lesbian couples, and their families, to point out exactly how they are harmed by the withholding of legal recognition. Including some 1138 rights, privileges, and responsibilities at the Federal level alone.

As for the objective science, as opposed by the lies and misrepresentations of the anti-gay side, children actually do best in stable, loving families, regardless of the gender of their parents. And one of the ways stability is encouraged is when the adults raising those kids are allowed to marry each other.

The operative word in the repeal of DADT, as championed by OutServe and SDLN and other activist groups, was “fairness.” It was not fair to let gays and lesbians serve, only to be exploited and kicked out whenever a commander felt like it. It wasn’t fair for women to be raped and coerced into silence lest they be accused of being lesbian. It was not fair to ask someone to sacrifice for their country, then discard them because of who they loved.

It’s been the same with marriage equality. I also do firmly believe one day we’ll have ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it bars job discrimination against gay and trans people under federal law). But I believe here’s why we’ve been winning over the last decade, with a veritable dam breaking in the last year after DOMA’s Section 3 was overturned by the Supreme Court.

It happened because of people like this:


And this:


And this:

indiana gay marriage

A gay couple gets married in Indiana.

And this:

A gay marriage proposal at a Home Depot.

A gay marriage proposal at a Home Depot.

And this:

Pediatrician Paul Melchert holds son Emmett, left, while his husband, James Zimmerman, holds their son Gabriel, at a press conference in Minnesota in favor of gay marriage.

Pediatrician Paul Melchert holds son Emmett, left, while his husband, James Zimmerman, holds their son Gabriel, at a press conference in Minnesota in favor of gay marriage.

And this:


And this:


What do they all have in common? They’re extraordinary in being ordinary.

It’s easy to fear something unknown and unfamiliar. But when your next door neighbors are a lesbian couple raising a couple of kids, or two gay men who, say, throw terrific beer and BBQ parties, it’s hard to keep that irrational fear going. Which is probably why homophobes like Tony Perkins (head of the SPLC-identified hate group, Family Research Council) is desperate to keep his children from learning such people exist. Because his lies and his irrational bigotry would be exposed.

And so this circles back around — because Harvey Milk was right. He has been vindicated. Step 1 in winning civil rights for gays and lesbians (and also hopefully B’s and T’s) is coming out of the closet. When we come out, people eventually learn that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. And gradually, the haters and homophobes become reduced to objects of ridicule and derision, as they should’ve been all along.

Anybody remember this guy? Even the gay-hating far-right distances itself from him now.

Fred Phelps Westboro Baptist Church gay

From GodHatesFags(dot)com

As soon as the courts began to say, “You can’t invoke your religion, or some nebulous concept of ‘tradition’ to justify anti-gay animus” — it was over for them. In case after case, they’re reduced to promoting bogus and easily disproved claims about the purposes of, and state interests in, civil marriage.

Take, for example, this argument put forth by the Republican Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter (yes, that’s his real name). The 9th Circuit decision last week had a field day with this one. (“He,” below, is Gov. Otter):


I leave you with the dyspeptic and forehead-vein-throbbing dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia in the DOMA overturn during the summer of 2013:

When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with ‘whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it ‘demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,’ ante, at 23 — with an accompanying citation of Lawrence.

“It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here — when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with. (…)

“As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, is that DOMA is motivated by ‘bare . . . desire to harm’ couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.”

Argle-bargle indeed, Mr. Justice.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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52 Responses to “Why gay marriage opponents lost: The social angle”

  1. Houndentenor says:

    This happened very often. I have a friend who had to move out of the house where he and his partner had lived for about five years quickly with what of his own stuff (including his piano) before the relatives descended to kick him out and take everything, including things my friend had bought with his own money. No court in his area would have been the least bit sympathetic and these were relatives who hadn’t even spoken to the partner in years because he was gay.

    So, I’m not going to apologize for being “mean” to fundamentalist Christians and other anti-gay bigots. They have never apologized for the crap they have done to use for decades. Also, it’s their religion that teaches them to “turn the other cheek”. I’m not under any obligation to be kind to people who despise me.

  2. gloria6482 says:

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  3. nobamunism says:

    I know of no gay marriage opponents who lost……….outside of a courtroom.

  4. BeccaM says:

    Fair enough and thank you. Let’s just agree to avoid each other from here on out, shall we?

  5. jared says:

    FWIW, I’m sorry for any distress I caused you.

  6. rmthunter says:

    There’s a wide context here, with a lot of synergy: the leaders of Anti-Gay, Inc., are, I’m pretty much convinced, a bunch of mountebanks, and while their followers are probably sincere in their beliefs, they are being led into seeing threats to those beliefs where there are none. I think Becca’s post has direct relevance here: as these followers, and those who may not necessarily be followers but have been exposed to the lies and slanders, realize that they know gay people, and that those gay people are not monsters, the more Anti-Gay, Inc., loses credibility. Thus, they are losing, which leads directly to the cries of oppression, persecution, and martyrdom, which makes them look even more ridiculous to anyone who’s aware of reality at all.

  7. BeccaM says:

    You seem to have mastered and embraced hate towards me.

  8. BeccaM says:

    No, it’s not a ‘discussion.’ It’s not ‘generic talking points.’ What happens is you will make slurs against me and my character as a human being — both to my face and to others, as if you think you’re being clever in attacking me by 2nd hand reference — and it is for that reason I will hereafter remember your Disqus handle for exactly one reason: To NEVER ever say anything to you again. To make my eyes glaze over whenever you comment anywhere here, so that I don’t see your words because half the time you’re attacking me in everything but name.

    Y’know why I said anything to you above, at the beginning? It was because I’d completely forgotten about you and our argument about letting Ebola victims into the U.S., because you were afraid of them and I felt it was compassionate to give them the best treatment possible, in the most advanced facilities on the face of the planet. You had a different opinion to which you’re entitled; I’m entitled to mine.

    Then you have the nerve to demand an apology for disagreeing with you, attempting to resurrect an argument I already told you I didn’t want to have anymore. (I still disagree with your every premise, by the way.)

    That’s how important you are to me. I forgot about you. After two months, I didn’t even remember you existed, because normally I don’t nurse resentments for months. I let stuff go; obviously you don’t, or didn’t in this case.

    And your very first remark above in this thread, which was an attack on my Americablog post, pulling out one sentence to which you objected because you’ve judged me and found me wanting (again), made it sound like you were a right-wing nut. Wingnuts who I am happy to see feel sad because their days of homophobic dominance are coming to an end. The exact same fucking wingnuts who claim they’re being bullied because we won’t tolerate their intolerance. You took their side. Your words were theirs: Oh those mean liberal bullies!

    I just assumed you were with them, on the side of the bullies. Pardon my mistake there. Because you see, “LGBT bullies” is one of their most favorite memes these days.

    I’ve been bullied. Fuck the bullies. Their bullying does not deserve compassion. Appeasing them does not satisfy them. Their bigotry does not deserve tolerance. If they’re sad because their opportunities to make others suffer are less than they were, then that’s fucking fantastic. I think it’s wonderful. But I already know you’re twisting that around so you can smugly conclude I enjoy people suffering, because YOU want to project me as a sadistic monster.

    You do not know me. I am nothing like the horrid construct of me you’ve built inside your own mind, but hey, that won’t convince you. Yes, I’m often angry, but my anger is righteous, fierce, and protective towards those who cannot defend themselves. But fine, keep on sticking those pins into that mental construct doll because I don’t fucking care. I really don’t fucking care, because for all your talk about compassion and enlightened attitudes, it obviously has its limits, which I am clearly outside of where you’re concerned.

    If Disqus had an ignore function, I would be using it. I really wish they had it; at the least, I’d rather not see YOUR message reply emails in my InBox, but it’s either that or I eliminate the messages from people I actually consider my friends here. Since Disqus has no such option, I’ve put in a request yet again that they add a “block (name)” function because I really need never to interact with you again. You damage my equanimity. Make of that what you will.

    Goodbye. Once again, attack me some more if you like. Further incoming Disqus notifications on this thread will be deleted unread.

  9. jared says:

    I think you have a great point about the faith in which one speaks. I wasn’t considering those that you mentioned and my comments were not inclusive of those with deceptive goals, especially in leadership positions.

  10. jared says:

    This might be one of those points where we just have to agree to disagree. For me, the validity of our actions are not defined by any of the participants, otherwise we fall into the trap of an eye for an eye. I see your point, but I just disagree. And regarding the KKK, I feel pity for them to be so filled with hate, so yeah I tolerate them and I let them burn themselves out. (And to reiterate the above, that does not mean I protect myself when necessary.)

  11. jared says:

    Discussion is not fear-mongering. Facts are facts. CIDRAP now officially considers the CDC to be wrong, and Obama just signed an XO authorizing the national guard re: ebola. Every time I try to have an intellectual discussion with you, it ends in generic talking points (“The last thing we need is more fear mongering.”). I back up my words with facts and links and you aim to shut me down with generic talking points.

  12. LeftleaningTx says:

    I am not happy to make another feel bad but if they feel bad because they lost a war they started I’m not gong to sing “cry me a river” at least anytime soon.

  13. LeftleaningTx says:

    But you are mistaken.
    WE didn’t make them objects of ridicule, they did that all on their on by their despicable behavior.
    Now basking in the glory,,,,well I’m going to do that for a while.

  14. LeftleaningTx says:

    That all sounds great, however, all of that need to happen AFTER the war has been won

  15. LeftleaningTx says:

    Yes Yes Yes and Dorothy said:
    “Come out, Come out, wherever you are !!”

    You can just hear conservative heads exploding everywhere every time you say it

  16. jared says:

    That isn’t what the text says.

  17. David_in_Houston says:

    Nonsense. Smacking down a bully does not make someone a bully; and no one is obligated to tolerate intolerance. Are you actually arguing that a group like the KKK shouldn’t be the subject of ridicule and derision because that would make us bullies? Yeah, we wouldn’t want to hurt the feelings of a group of people that demonize blacks and Jews. That would be mean.

  18. Terry E. Christian says:

    It is not, properly speaking, the bigot that we are ridiculing. We are ridiculing their abandonment of the use of reason to decide civic policy. That, in effect, is what bigotry is: the use of stereotype and myth, instead of fact, to sway opinion on a subject.
    We must ridicule it, we must deride it, and we must guffaw in its face until it is shamed and beaten down to the point of oblivion. And whether the issue of homophobia, racism, sexism, or what have you, we must do it each and every time the specter of bigotry dares to raise its ugly head from the bog.

  19. rmthunter says:

    I agree, in general, but given some of the “arguments” used against us, ridicule is the only appropriate response. Witness NOM’s recent blog post about “I can marry myself,” or some of the ideas advanced to support “traditional marriage” in various court cases. (Richard Posner’s 7th Circuit opinion striking down bans in Wisconsin and Indiana is priceless — and this is a judge widely regarded as conservative.)

    There’s also that fact that these people are calling our victories illegitimate and worse, and calling for civil war in response.

    One other aspect of this that I think deserves consideration: these people, for the most part (and I’m talking about the major voices — Perkins, Brown, Wildmon, etc.) are not in good faith. They are operating a very lucrative business while justifying their slanders as “religion.” They get no sympathy from me. If they don’t want to be ridiculed, they can change their tune.

    And a footnote: Realizing that this all started out in relation to name-calling in comment threads: I’m against it. I don’t do it, and I tend to ignore the opinions of those who do — if that’s all they have in their arsenal, to hell with them.

  20. jared says:

    All true. And to clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that one just roll over and assume the position. There is a time to fight. But basking in the glory of your victory by making your losing opponents “objects of ridicule and derision” is immature, intolerant, and ultimately hateful.

  21. Badgerite says:

    Harvey Milk was an extraordinary man.

  22. rmthunter says:

    Those are laudable sentiments, and I wish everyone were more open to them. I’m afraid, however, that, through bitter experience I’ve come to the conclusion that, with certain people, if you turn the other cheek, you’re going to get slapped twice.

    You’re also talking about a set of people who are immune to discussion. (Digby had a very interesting post on this phenomenon yesterday: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/10/qotd-reza-aslan.html) Whether they are truly dependent on their inherited assumptions or they are assiduous about insuring their cash flow, the problem is that they are not open to facts or reason: for whatever reason, they can’t afford to change their minds. These are the peope who are screaming about our “intolerance.” And they’re certainly not going to respond positively to tolerance and understanding — they take that as a sign of weakness. We’ve seen that too often for there to even be a question about it.

    I’m not in favor of name-calling, but I have no compunction about labeling a bigot as such, and am more than happy to point out why they deserve that label. That’s not intolerance — that’s just reality.

  23. jared says:

    The way I see it, intolerance is a form of hate and tolerance is a form of love. And in the long term hate breeds hate and love breeds love.

    Every once in a while, a video pops up on youtube with some young child expressing hateful thoughts that they don’t really seem to understand, clearly implanted by some adults. I feel pity for these children. Well, when I see adults expressing the same thoughts, my feelings don’t change just because they are older. These were probably “brain-washed” children who never left their insulated communities and are simply holding onto their principles. For me pity does not beget hate.

    Also, I think we’ve all observed that for gays exposure has played a dramatic role in acceptance (this is pointed out in the blog post). Had the gay activists in parades 40 years ago marched stomping their feet ridiculing the opponents, I doubt the result would have been the same. In small amounts, I’ve let haters come close to me, in particular certain family members. By expressing positivity and tolerance and love, I think I’ve had a better result than choosing the opposite path.

    Finally, hate and inner peace cannot coexist. For the sake of my mind and body, I choose love not hate.

  24. rmthunter says:

    Would you care to explain just why we should tolerate those who have made careers out of portraying us as sick, dirty, diseased, and less than human?

  25. Indigo says:

    It opened the door for that bizarre interlude with a B movie actor at the helm during the Dictadura. I don’t see that Carter’s administration did much more than that.

  26. jared says:

    Since you are done, I will summarize.

    You want a subset of people to “become reduced to objects of ridicule and derision.”
    You are happy that I am “feeling increasingly lonely.”
    You admit that I was right and refuse to apologize.
    You tell me that I’m a “cruel person with no empathy whatsoever,” and “love playing the victim card,” and then whine that I say “mean things about you.”
    And finally conclude that I am a “blatant troll,” despite the fact that I have backed up every statement with reasonable arguments and references.

    Got it.

  27. jared says:

    Not true. CDC is the organization who recommended BSL2 procedures.


  28. BeccaM says:

    My comment indicates nothing of the sort. And I still think you’re a cruel person with no empathy whatsoever and who loves playing the victim card.

    But that’s just my opinion. So no apology for you, although yes, you were right, hooray for you — people are sick. But I have to wonder if you had any clue that the totally effective and appropriate CDC protection protocols for Ebola (level 4) were being down-graded to level 2 protocols because for-profit hospitals are too cheap to protect their employees.

    P.S. Go ahead and say more mean things about me. I’m done with your rather blatant trolling. Enjoy having the last word, go on.

  29. jared says:

    Your comment indicates that you are happy to make another feel bad. Another expression of your “kindness,” a virtue I’d like to see you ineffectively argue.

    And while we’re at it, any chance you’d like to apologize for calling my risk assessment capability “ass-backwards” when I accurately predicted that either the CDC protocols for ebola protection were inadequate or that someone executing those protocols would slip up (i.e. Dallas nurse).

  30. BeccaM says:

    Feeling increasingly lonely, are we?

    Good. Because there is no virtue in homophobia or bigotry, nor in tolerating it.

  31. jared says:

    “And gradually, the haters and homophobes become reduced to objects of ridicule and derision, as they should’ve been all along.”

    Human virtues (in this case, tolerance) are unconditional. You are a bully, just as bad as those you preach against.

  32. BeccaM says:

    At the time, I saw Carter as the prototype for the ConservaDem movement, and the party’s answer to the GOP’s ‘Southern Strategy’. “We’ll swing to the right because who else is our base gonna vote for?”

    It was not a positive development for liberals and progressives.

  33. BeccaM says:

    Whether or not that boss is motivated by discriminatory prejudice, which may or may not be illegal depending on the applicable laws.

  34. Drew2u says:

    What’s the difference between a boss that’s a general bully to the rest of his employees (the dozen or so people under him) and a boss creating a hostile environment and a boss that’s harassing someone for being gay?

  35. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, well, I’ve discovered that jeans, flannel, and cowboy boots goes with almost anything. Plus it’s practical wear for farm-work. ;-)

  36. That, in addition to our fashion sense.

  37. BeccaM says:

    The fact I can say “my wife”? Luckier than I would’ve dreamed possible in my lifetime.

  38. Indigo says:

    I liked him well enough at the time. His rude comment to unmarried bureaucrats to “get married” was uncalled for, though. He was ever the Sunday School Teacher. I didn’t like that at all. I voted for him both times, though. After all . . .

  39. dcinsider says:

    That is hilarious.

  40. Naja pallida says:

    It’s a lot easier to change with the times when you’re out of office and don’t have to actually put your money where your mouth is. For the most part though, while in elected office, he was a moderate at best. It’s just our current perspective of the right being hair-on-fire insane that makes him look so liberal in retrospect. But remember, that was a time when Conservatives believed in conserving.

  41. Indigo says:

    Harvey Milk was definitely a very large voice in the entire process of bringing the gay voice into the public forum. He wasn’t alone but wasn’t without opposition from within the community, the Alpha Gays, as they are sometimes styled, and they are with us even now. For them and for many, the first and most important of the commandments has nothing to do with “loving thy neighbor,” it’s the much more profoundly archetypal commandment: “Don’t rock the boat.”

    The Fundamentalists and their enablers feel that we’re rocking the boat dangerously but as far as I’m concerned, we’re way too polite, way too cautious. We should rock the boat until the gunwales slosh.

  42. dcinsider says:

    There are so many of these stories out there. I think you are correct in noting that the AIDS epidemic was a wake up call for more than just the most obvious reasons. But not every gay man died of AIDS.

    I had a friend in Massachusetts who was killed in a car accident in 2002, just a year before marriage equality in Massachusetts. The surviving partner acquiesced to a full religious funeral even though he knew his partner would have opposed it, because he felt my friend’s parents were grieving as much as he, and needed it for closure, and because he knew they looked upon him as a son.

    His thanks?

    My dead friend’s otherwise supportive parents, who I knew well, explained to his surviving partner that while they liked him, he certainly was not their son-in-law like their “real” sons-in law. They did not keep in touch with him after their son’s death.

    Worse yet, as my friend and his partner owned a joint home, he had to deal with inheritance taxes and other legal issues and expenses in the midst of grieving his loss. Luckily, he was financially stable and able to keep the home.

    The happy ending is he met someone years later, and they were legally married in 2012.

    It is so nice to see the tragic recent history we all remember and have sadly experienced slowly slide into the history books.

    How lucky are we?

  43. Indigo says:

    Yeah . . . the rush to canonize Jimmy Carter is unwarranted. He seems to have mellowed into a Nice Old Guy, true enough, but there’s plenty of crazy in his platform.

  44. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, it was. Worst of all? They did have all the paperwork possible at the time. Power of attorney. Will. Non-revokable trust, etc.

    The evil family tried to contest everything, claiming their son — because dementia is one of the common end-stages of HIV — had been coerced into signing. In addition to the financial records, my BIL also had to submit detailed medical records showing his partner did not suffer any appreciable mental decline until the last month or two of the illness.

  45. FLL says:

    Dan Savage once noted that gay people have a superpower that ethnic, racial and religious minorities don’t: they are born into straight families. Jews are not born into Gentile families and black folks are not born into white families. But that superpower would never have any effect as long as gay people remained closeted. So yes, coming out of the closet was the key.

  46. BeccaM says:

    BTW, I told someone the other day I was going to steal her comment and so I shall. From Mighty_Ponygirl in a RS thread about chastity and STIs. (With a few minor edits…)

    As Amanda pointed out in yesterday’s article, Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t about buttsekhs, it was about violating the hospitality rule (and basically, rape). If you really read the full passage about Lot and his family, it’s pretty f*cked up from start-to-finish.

    * God shows up to Abraham and is like “Ima destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s all wicked and shit.” And Abraham is like, “Noooo! #notallmen, God!” And God’s like, “Fine. Find me fifty innocent people.” And Abraham’s like, “Woah. Can I talk you down to ten” and God’s like, “Sure.”
    * A couple of angels show up to Lot’s house to chill out and play board games and get a census of Not-Assholes.
    * The people of Sodom and Gomorrah see the angels and are like, “WE WANNA F*CK THOSE GUYS.” So they show up at Lot’s house and demand that he turn out the Angels so that they can f*ck the angels. Lot’s like, “Why don’t you rape my two virgin daughters, instead? C’mere, girls!” And the people are like, “Newp. Angels. For raping. Now.” Remember kids, Lot’s the good guy worth saving!
    * The angels basically blind everyone trying to break in to rape them so that they won’t be raped. (They had a way of “shutting that whole thing down” I guess.)
    * The angels look at Lot and his family and are like, “Um, yeah, you should probably get out of Dodge, because God’s going to wipe your rapey town off the face of the earth.” So Lot takes his wife and daughters and leaves and is told not to look back. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t have any children, and that everyone was a grown-up rapist in that town.
    * Lot’s wife looks back and is turned to a pilar of salt, so she sucks.
    * Lot is afraid to go and live in Zoar (the nearby town) so he takes his daughters up to the mountains. His daughters are baby crazy and decide the only way they’ll get kids is by getting dad drunk and f*cking him. So now Lot’s family, you know, the good ones that were worth saving, are basically a massive salt-lick, and a dude who gets black-out-drunk, and his crazy rapist daughters.

    I’m honestly not sure WHAT the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah is, because it’s not like anyone comes out looking great in that story. It’s always interesting to me that fundies latch on to that one as some sort of Goofus and Gallant script for sexual propriety.

  47. dcinsider says:


  48. BeccaM says:

    I agree. It was also (almost) the very beginning of the push for marriage rights, because many gay couples were discovering they had no legal recognition of their status when one of them became ill or died.

    My brother-in-law from my first marriage lost his partner, and he and my now-ex mother-in-law nursed that young man through his illness and were there at his bedside when he died. The only reason that was even possible was because the partner’s family had totally disowned him. Even then, before the funeral was even over — which the partner’s family did not attend — my brother-in-law had been served with papers demanding he turn over half of his possessions to this now-interested family.

    Eventually he prevailed in court, but only after many thousands of dollars spent in legal fees, as he had to prove that all the remaining assets were his and that for the last three years of his partner’s life, the partner had in fact been entirely financially dependent.

  49. caphillprof says:

    I think the turning point was the AIDS epidemic which forced men out of the closet. All of a sudden many Americans found out that the did indeed know somebody who was gay. More often than not it was the nice man or the kind man or the helpful man from work or at the library or in church or next door. It was tragic but changed things forever.

  50. BeccaM says:

    In general, I’m fine with piling on Reagan for being evil. Hell, the man committed treason to win the presidency, by negotiating with the Iranians before he was elected, just like Nixon did with the North Vietnamese.

    It’s also one thing to simply not state a position on something or to refuse to take a position, which is the usual tactic of the political coward. Reagan didn’t, and I’ve always taken the belief that even rotten people sometimes do the right thing. Reagan’s editorial is actually a pretty good one, for its time.


  51. Naja pallida says:

    Ronald Reagan’s position on Proposition 6 was seen largely as him moderating his stances in the run up to the 1980 election, and many California municipalities already had laws prohibiting the “indoctrination of students into homosexuality”, which he felt could be interpreted broadly enough to make Prop 6 unnecessary. (Which also happened to be Jerry Brown’s position on the matter too.) Not really sure I’d give Reagan or Brown a whole lot of credit there, it was definitely in the hands of people like Milk. Though, it should be noted that Jimmy Carter, despite often being credited with his opposition, didn’t come out against Prop 6 until after he learned Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were already publicly against it, and was pressured to say something about it on the spot at a public event for Jerry Brown.

  52. NATHAN AMAL says:

    Beautifully written TRUTH…

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