Ten years ago when I was a junior in high school a student circulated a paper calling Cambridge ‘Faggotville’ and singling out gay students and decrying them for ‘ruining our school’. Yes even in enlightened Cambridge, MA this bigotry was common, and it happened not long after our state became the first in the country, and one of the first jurisdictions on the planet to allow for full civil marriage equality. I remember my evangelical brother incensed at the decision, my own more agnostic parents, both political liberals, thinking marriage was still ‘a step too far’. Even at my own enlightened and progressive high school, the first in the nation with a gay-straight alliance, my own opinion was a minority one, and an unpopular one at that. I remember a debate we had in a history class and I had to hear ignorant classmates say the tired ‘Adam and eve not Adam and steve’ arguments, misuse bible quotes, and hurl terrible insults at my gay classmates with our teachers unable or unwilling to stop them. I regularly say gay students insulted to their faces, pushed into lockers, villified and dehumanized. I even endured some of these taunts simply because I was vocal about my early support for gay marriage. It didn’t come from having gay relatives, I have none, and it didn’t come from having gay friends, I did, but few I was close to. It came from my love of American history and the simple words that launched it, ‘all men are created equal’. It seemed that simple to me, but at the time, for many, it was more complicated than that.
Massachusetts has come a long way, and now the country is too. My parents quickly became gay marriage supporters after the 2004 election and viewed it as a non-issue. While my evangelical brother would be uncomfortable with gay clergy or a gay ceremony inside his church’s walls he recognizes that outside of it his beliefs are one of many and the state can’t pick a side. This is the slow progress we are making. I hope my children and grandchildren grow up in a world where their fellow students won’t get away with harassing, bullying, and beating gays like so many did, even in progressive Cambridge when I was in school. I hope my future wife and I can set an example to our kids of what a loving couple can look like, and I am confident that our gay friends will set a similar example when they are able to get married too.
We still hear echoes of bigotry from figures of authority, whether it’s the Pope calling gay adoption ‘a plot from the Father of Lies’ or a member of our own Supreme Court claiming gay parenting a ’causes a deleterious effect on children’. But these echoes come from old men whose time has come. As Dylan once said “Your old road is rapidly aging, get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand, for the times they are a changing”. Change they must, and more importantly, change they will.
I will end this by saying I respect religious opposition to gay marriage, I disagree with it but I can respect it, as much as I can disagree and respect religious opposition to divorce. But like divorce laws, our civil marriage laws are determined by the Constitution which is above religion or creed and refers to no god in its text. What it does refer to quite clearly is simple:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That truly higher authority should be what rules the day, not the prejudices of old men.