By Leslie Robinson
It has happened. Gay marriage is now almost legal in one state. The threshold has been crossed–and soon, in Boston, Peter will be carrying Bruce over that very threshold, provided Bruce drops a few pounds before their wedding.
A lot of Americans are nervous about this development. For my part, when I heard the news on the radio, I pumped my fist like I’d just won entry to an exclusive club. Which I had.
Here’s the surprising part: I’m a wee bit nervous myself.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m elated by the high court’s decision. Now gays have access to the zillions of rights that come with marriage. And the opportunity to engage in time-honored practices, such as getting cold feet, or forgetting your beloved’s name in mid-vow.
What I’m experiencing is a mild case of the general jitters, and it’s caused by change. As much as I’m for this change, and advocated on its behalf, even I occasionally have a wiggly feeling in my stomach now that it’s here.
Anything new and different brings along a sidekick: fear. Few of us are fully evolved, mature or lucky enough to escape its clutches every time. I know I’m not; I’m still anxious over the rise of DVD’s.
This isn’t a be-careful-of-what-you-wish-for situation. I wished for gay marriage, I got it, and I’m thrilled. This is a never-thought-I’d-see-the-day-and-it-takes-some-getting-used-to situation.
Consequently it isn’t hard for me to understand the nerves of non-gay people over this issue. We’ve all existed in a world of “Leave It To Beaver” and “Happy Days.” Marriage has meant the union of one man and one woman, which in turn leads to the production of adorable children whose problems are solved within a half hour, ads included.
In this world, there was no gay marriage. In this world, there were no gays. Apparently we were all hanging out on Pluto, waiting for earth to recognize us.
Over the past decades society has been forced to deal with the messy demands of racial minorities, women, and the ultimate out-group, homosexuals. Slowly but steadily Americans have agreed to do what is fair. Polls today show most people are opposed to discrimination against gays.
But polls also show most Americans are opposed to gay marriage. Folks don’t see this as contradictory. Marriage to them is about tradition, not rights. They need to know that, unable to marry, gay couples are saddled with the b urden of paying higher taxes, a tradition that should go the way of the bustle.
When it comes to nervousness over change, religious conservatives are in a category by themselves. I’m confident as the Massachusetts legislature tries to find a way around the court’s ruling, some reactionary Catholic members are going to say a few things about gays that would make Jesus blush.
The religious right is petrified–in more ways than one–and seeks to terrify others. Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, told Fox News that gay marriage “is a social weapon of mass destruction.” Further, “It would destroy civilization as we know it.”
I know these threats are designed to scare people, but my reaction is the opposite. The claims are so outlandish and comical they make me laugh–and obliterate my jitters.
Gay marriage is shaping up to be an issue of mass distraction in the next election, as conservatives use it to pull in voters and deflect President Bush’s shortcomings.
But in the long run, when gay marriage hasn’t managed to bring down civilization, we will all have a tough time explaining to the next generation what people were so anxious about. I, for one, will pretend that I never had a moment’s doubt.