Some mornings I feel exhaustion for no reason other than the fact that I'm a gay American. I wonder if my fellow citizens who spend their days campaigning and crusading to limit my civil rights — the civil rights that they themselves take for granted — ever consider the inhumanity and irrationality of what they do? And I wonder if the millions of Americans who stand by apathetically and allow this travesty to play out with each passing day ever consider the emotional anguish they are deliberately or carelessly causing to millions of children, teenagers and adults?
I wonder if they wonder what it's like to live with the fear and reality that in most parts of this nation you can be legally fired from your job, denied housing, refused a room in a hotel or barred from public facilities simply because of your sexual orientation. I wonder if they wonder how a gay child feels when he or she is called an abomination, prevented from attending a prom with his or her high school sweetheart, or beaten up in the schoolyard while homophobic teachers look on with contempt.
If one assumes — and I do — that given the right information most people will do the right thing, it is very difficult to understand the degree of homophobia and outright hatred that manifests itself in this great nation. Why are we, as Americans, so out of synch with other Western democracies? Why are civil rights more widely protected and honored in the EU, in South African and in Canada then in the land of Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln? Most of us don't kick puppies or set out in the morning to cause emotional or physical harm to other people, and yet most of us are doing just that even if it just through apathy.
Who is harmed by two adults of the same sex falling in love, making a commitment to each other and wanting to raise a family? In a nation where most children are being raised by single mothers and where thousands of children are abandoned, orphaned and homeless, do we really believe that such children would be worse off in a loving home with same-sex parents? Who benefits from preventing a gay man from sitting at the hospital bedside of his critically ill longtime companion? Who is harmed by adding sexual orientation to federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace, housing, education and services?
Do a majority of Americans believe that homosexuals are stealing the jobs of qualified heterosexuals? Does working next to a homosexual jeopardize the fate of your eternal soul or weaken your heterosexual desires? Perhaps it does. Perhaps heterosexuality is little more than a fragile veneer that needs to be carefully guarded. I wouldn't know. I'm a homosexual. It's who I am. And I in no way fear that my sexual orientation will be shaken by close proximity to my heterosexual friends. Although I must admit that sometimes I wish they would go find a room.
But more importantly, how is it compatible with the legacy of 1776 and Constitutional law that the civil rights of any minority in this nation should be subject to the whims or religious beliefs of the majority? When did we come to believe that the civil rights of Americans should be granted or denied according to the notion of "community standards?" Didn't we recognize the wrongness of that when we eliminated segregation?
I deny no one their religious beliefs but when those religious beliefs are allowed to prevail over constitutional law, then have we not lost our democracy and replaced it with a burgeoning theocracy? And is that where we really want to go? Do we really want to betray 400 years of immigrants who fled to these shores to escape persecution and oppression at the hands of monarchs and despots who believed themselves ordained by God to rule.
One might also consider the broader peril of this irrational course. The supposed condemnation of homosexuality in Leviticus stands beside many other "words of God." And we have long since accepted that many of these "words of God" are immoral, barbaric or downright silly. We no longer condone the enslavement of nations and races that are different from ourselves or the stoning to death of adulterers, children who disobey their parents and weavers who blend cotton and wool. And we've long ago abandoned the Biblical edict that women are absolutely subservient to men.
If you literally accept the demands of Leviticus then you must believe that in signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln was doomed to eternal damnation and that Nancy Pelosi should be stoned to death.
If we set the precedent that religious belief trumps constitutional law, where do the zealots go next? They base their homophobic crusade on the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God. Why does this nation assume that they will be satisfied with cherry picking? You may not care if I'm exhausted by living my life at the forbearance of heterosexuals, but you might consider that it's worth caring that if the religious fundamentalists and neo-conservatives prevail in denying full civil rights to American citizens of any minority, the future for all is likely bleak.
On its recent cover, The National Review inappropriately asks if a Mormon should be allowed in the White House. I find that offensive. At one time, we were convinced that a Catholic in the White House would ruin us all. JFK disproved that silly idea. But The National Review might rightly examine the perils of allowing a bigot and theocrat in the White House, a theocrat who openly crusades to limit the civil rights of American citizens based on irrational religious texts. A theocrat who has made it clear that his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States will only go as far as his religious beliefs will allow.
It is exhausting and profoundly disappointing to know that my civil rights are not, as I had grown up to believe, protected by the Constitution of the United States. Rather they are something I need to fight for on a daily basis because many Americans and their leaders have come to the belief that a thousands-year-old text should stand above the work of such men as Madison, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson and Franklin. That's a very different America from the one in which I was raised.
No one is harmed by protecting the civil rights of gay Americans, but everyone is harmed if the civil rights of gay Americans continue to be restricted and dictated by something other than the Constitution.Powered by Sidelines