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Jeremy Hooper: No Time to Cower

Jeremy Hooper,
Good As You
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June 19, 2008

As cake is ceremoniously cut in the Castro, civil rights are continually being undercut by marriage equality’s foes. It’s rare that you’ll come across a story on the California weddings in which the protestors are not also given a fair amount of ink to convey why, exactly, they think the end of the world, the destruction of the family, the corruption of children’s innocence, and the erosion of “traditional values” is nigh. We who cover the so-called “culture war” are seeing an increase in the already-frequent denunciations of equality, with the gay-unfriendly protestations and predictions getting even more outlandish.

But you know what? Let them scream. Let them stamp their feet. If they want to protest by fasting for a day, then more power to them. For on this issue, at this time, in this state, I truly believe that if those of us on the side of fairness play our cards right, the marriage equality opponents will be key in helping us connect the dots for the American public. By highlighting ratherthan running away from the unreasonable resistance, we can find many teachable moments.

At a recent Family Research Council(FRC) press conference on the subject of the California decision, FRC head Tony Perkins asserted that in casting its ruling, the California Supreme Court overstepped the state legislature. At the same event, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver boldly declared that under the newly enacted marriage equality, a person will be able to concurrently hold a California marriage, a California domestic partnership, and a Vermont civil union, which he said has “essentially legalized polygamy.” Building on this polygamy theme, Alliance Defense Fund attorney Glen Lavy went on to intertwine bisexuality and polyamory, presenting the false idea that bisexuals, by their very nature, are going to want to marry multiple partners.

Now, while the above testaments might have sounded kosher to the audience in attendance that day, it’s quite simple to nip the arguments in the proverbial bud. It takes only a few words to remind Tony that the CaliforniaLegislature has twice passed marriage equality legislation. It takes only a simple link to some factual data to concretely prove Mat Staver’s “one can have multiple marriages” logic wrong. For Glen Lavy it’s slightly more complicated, but it’s still fairly easy to detail why bisexuality and polyamory are, in fact, quite different concepts. One can set the gay record straight with just a minor amount of effort.

But beyond just proving our opponents wrong, we must also take it a step further and show the general public just how willing these folks are to lie on these subjects. It’s a near certainty that Mat, Tony, and Glen all know the truth behind their rhetoric. It would be practically impossible for these gentlemen to do what they do without knowing the truth. So what we must do is ask them (a) why they see a need to try and dupe their potential allies, and (b) why they think it’s “moral” to do so. And by extension, we must ask voters in California which side they want to get behind:the one that is working from a place of civil fairness, provable fact, and pure human emotion, or the one that is ever more increasingly relying on faith-based argument, anecdotal predictions, and false constructs.

If you follow gay rights human rights closely, then the notion that opponents of civil fairness are sometimes less-than-truthful is not headline news for you. But let’s be honest:most Americans are not fluent in the ins-and-outs of the LGBT equality movement. So that is why we have to seize this opportunity while national consciousness is raised on the marriage equality issue and directly combat the campaigns that are being waged against us. While it’s imperative that we share our stories and plead our case as to why our equality should not be rolled back by a tyrannical majority vote, this alone is not enough. There are plenty of fence-sitters who are prone to see this situation as a two-sided debate in which both sides can agree to disagree on a purely political level. We have to change that far-too-accepted conversation — showing how this is really a debate of right vs. wrong — while detailing which of the two sides has firmly embraced inaccuracy.

At Monday night’s first same-sex marriages in San Francisco, the notorious Westboro Baptist Churchhad a sign that featured Rosie O’Donnell as Jabba the Hut and Ellen DeGeneres as a pig with the word “dyke” tattooed on her booty. Another crew held a sign saying “Homo Sex is a Threat To National Security.” Countless spotlight-craving gay opponents were on hand to represent, and countless more issued press releases saying things like, “[gays] will not be satisfied until they have sodomized the entire culture.” From mainstream to extreme, the anti-gay side has been pulling out all the stops.

I say to this heightened presence? GOOD! Keep ’em coming. In fact, I’ll be sure to set at least one wedding gift aside to pass along to opponents of my love, as I’m confident they’ll play a major role in ensuring my marriage will remain legally intact!