What if you were straight in a gay world?
by Kelvin Wade
Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage in California, was unconstitutional. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the majority, wrote “The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry.”
This seems obvious to me. It wasn’t obvious to New Jersey Governor Christ Christie, who said recently that residents should hold a referendum on gay marriage. He further said that blacks in the Civil Rights Era would’ve liked to have had a referendum. How idiotic. Blacks would’ve lost. And since when do we put civil rights up for a majority vote in this country?
In 1967 the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down bans on interracial marriage throughout the country. A 1968 Gallup Poll found only 20 percent of Americans supported marriage between blacks and whites, while 73 percent opposed. What if there’d been a national referendum on interracial marriage? Sometimes courts and legislatures have to do the right thing in the face of public opposition.
With gay marriage, we’re in a strange position. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage. This time the public is ahead of our government.
Despite what some opponents believe, the marriage equality fight isn’t about religion. The state must show a compelling reason to deny gay people the right to marry. One’s religious viewpoint is not a valid reason. It’s strange that the same folks who fear Islamic Sharia Law sweeping the country, think nothing of our elected officials and judges making decisions based on Christian texts.
For straight people who oppose gay marriage, let’s try an exercise. Imagine for a moment that you lived in a society where homosexuality was the majority orientation. (Let’s imagine that people procreated through homosexual sex.)
How eager would you be to even hold hands with the opposite sex in public if everywhere you looked, you saw gay couples? What if you knew that merely holding your opposite sex lover’s hand in public could result in stares, putdowns, confrontations and even violence? Think about that.
How would you feel if someone told you that your attraction to the opposite sex was abnormal? What if there were therapists and companies who were in the business of trying to convert heterosexual people to homosexuality. Would you go? Or would you be offended that anyone would want to change your sexuality? Do you think you could be “converted” into being sexually attracted to the same sex?
Now stay with me. What if you were in a deeply committed relationship with a person of the opposite sex? If you’re involved with someone now, just imagine you and that person in a world where homosexuality was the dominant sexual orientation. What if you wanted to marry that person and you were told that marriage wasn’t an option since your relationship is nontraditional, but you could have a civil union that wouldn’t come with the same federal rights and tax breaks as gay marriages? How would you feel?
Would you think your partner deserves the same dignity and respect under the law as all of those gay couples walking around holding hands in public with no fear?
What if people said that according to their religion, your feelings were wrong? What if you didn’t subscribe to that religion or any religion for that matter? Do you think that the government and courts should follow the dictates of their religion?
What if someone told you that marriage wasn’t allowed between you and your opposite sex partner because it would harm gay marriage? Your love would endanger theirs. Does that sound rational to you?
Perhaps we would understand each other better if we just stop and try walking in someone else’s shoes. Social change on this scale can be unsettling. But gay people aren’t trying to convert your children, invalidate your faith or ruin America. They just want the same dignity and respect from the law that you receive. Nothing more.