Just in time for Pride
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and other SFPD officers in the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. Photo credit: Bill Wilson"][/caption]The NYTimes last week published this op-ed by David Blankenhorn, a notable opponent of same-sex marriage, Here's more about Blankenhorn's switch. It's a thoughtful op-ed, listing the reasons for his change of heart. One sobering note:
In the mind of todays public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.
And then a call to collaboration:
Instead of fighting gay marriage, Id like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same. For example, once we accept gay marriage, might we also agree that marrying before having children is a vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace? Can we agree that, for all lovers who want their love to last, marriage is preferable to cohabitation? Can we discuss whether both gays and straight people should think twice before denying children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents?
You may agree or disagree with his agenda, but it marks a major shift for Blankenhorn and those who will join him. This agenda also reveals what Andrew Sullivan has been saying for decades--the push for legal recognition of same-sex marriage is a profoundly conservative move, not a radical or liberal one. Or at least it fits well within the conservative (and not only conservative!) paradigm that values marriage as a fundamentally important social institution. Pride weekend, of course, is timed to commemorate the June 27, 1969 (actually early a.m., June 28,) riot at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in NYC. It began as a routine raid, when something extraordinary happened--the crowd said "no" to this kind of harrassment. Here's Michael Fader's reflection on the riots:
We all had a collective feeling like we'd had enough of this kind of s***. It wasn't anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration....All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. ...And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren't going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us aroundit's like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that's what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we're going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren't going to go away. And we didn't.
What a change in 43 years! In 1969, the gay community was largely marginalized, a sub-culture that the majority felt free to mock, subject to legal sanction, and, too often, violently abuse. This was a time when castration, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were used by psychiatrists to attempt to "cure" homosexuals. Now gay "reparative" therapy has been revealed as the scam it is. Once police were perceived as the enemy of the gay community--now they march in the Pride parades. Gay men and lesbians serve openly in the military now, too. A majority of Americans, and a majority of Catholics, approve of some recognition of same-sex unions. The mainstreaming of gay culture is accelerating every day, thanks to the courage of those who said "no more!" at Stonewall, and, no less, to those countless gay men and lesbians who had the courage to come out to family, friends and co-workers. It's not over. Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project is a response to the ongoing abuse of queer kids and kids perceived to be queer by their peers, abuse which is too often tolerated by adults. "Fag" is still a derisive term in many circles. The magisterium, among whom homosexuals far outnumber the proportion of gay men in society generally, (unless leaders skew far more straight than priests generally, which seems unlikely,) still refers to same-sex love as "intrinsically evil," and to same-sex attraction as "objectively disordered." But times are changing. In the end, it will be love, and the dignity of every person's striving to love as well as we can, that wins the day. Happy Pride, everybody.
About the Author
Lisa Fullam is associate professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).