The response to last week’s column calling out conservative Christian talk show host Matt Barber for defending Miss California from the gossip blogger known as Perez Hilton was so one-sided that I am writing this week’s column as a public service. To all of you who don’t believe that two people of the same sex don’t or should have the same right to marry that two people of opposite sexes have, I understand if your beliefs (religious or otherwise) compel you to live your life a certain way. You need to understand America is a pluralistic country where groups of people are free to develop and maintain their own culture as a part of our larger society. As long as your rights and freedoms aren’t violated, you have to be tolerant of those groups — even if you don’t like it. The sooner you accept that, the better off we’ll all be.
Historically speaking, minorities, women, seniors, the disabled, and gay people haven’t always enjoyed the equal protection guaranteed to us in the Constitution. It got to be so bad that each of those groups had to eventually become a “protected class” of people under the law. That means it became illegal to treat us any differently because we’re not physically able, straight, white men below the retirement age — and it means anyone who does could be guilty of a crime. How you dress it up or what belief system you use to justify it, discriminating against other people is wrong — even if a strange quirk in California’s Constitution allows a ballot measure like Proposition 8 to make it “legal.”
A lot of the current arguments for defending “traditional” marriage (between a man and a woman) from same-sex couples wanting their union to be recognized by the state were used to defend “traditional” marriage (between a white man and a white woman) from interracial couples wanting their union to be recognized by the state. Lawyers for the state of California successfully advocated for anti-miscegenation laws, saying they wanted to prevent “traditional marriage from being contaminated by the recognition of relationships that are physically and mentally inferior … (and entered into by) the dregs of society.” And for almost a century, the Golden State was tarnished by allowing racism to be codified into law.
Just as we eventually agreed that the law banning interracial marriage was wrong, we will agree that a law banning same-sex marriage is wrong. If you don’t think so, try explaining to a 12-year-old that two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together can’t get married because they have the same junk. I’ll bet a dollar to a donut that kid will say “so what?”
Anyone who would take the right to marry each other away from same-sex couples should rent the movie “Philadelphia” starring Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, and Antonio Banderas. It was “inspired” by the story of an HIV-positive lawyer who was fired from his firm (despite excellent job performance) and files a discrimination suit. Hanks and Banderas are a couple and — as tough as this is for a straight man to say — they are absolutely adorable. They share a home, they share family members, they share their lives, they take care of each other, and they are obviously madly in love. But without being able to have their union recognized, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to visit each other in the hospital, be covered by each others’ health insurance, or see to each others’ last wishes. There is a great scene where Denzel, a homophobic attorney who initially declined to take Hanks’ case (but eventually does), bumps into him at a law library. A librarian approaches Hanks announcing that he has found a book on AIDS discrimination and Denzel notices people staring, then moving away. The librarian says to Hanks, “Sir, wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a study room?” Tom looks up, sees people watching him, and responds, “No. Would it make you more comfortable?”
That’s the question all you people who e-mailed me have to answer: Should gay and lesbian people have to be relegated to another room because seeing two men or two women proclaim their love for each other makes you uncomfortable? If your answer is “yes,” please consider this column as your wake-up call. You don’t realize yet that those are your family members, friends, and neighbors you’re discriminating against. History isn’t on your side, neither is the Book of Luke (“as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them”) or the Book of Matthew (“whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”). You can still believe whatever you want to believe and live your life the way you want to live it, just don’t stand in the way of other people who want to do the same. It costs you nothing to pay them no mind.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider living in Santa Monica whose past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org