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November 20, 2005

Proposition 2 in Texas: Reluctant Comments

Here’s the question I have for those who voted for Proposition 2 in the recent election here in Texas: How many gay people have you been friends with? Any family members? Have you ever spent appreciable time with anyone who is gay? Enough time to understand them in a thorough way? My guess is that answers in the positive to this question number in the low single digits.

Gay marriage affects very few people, but its emotional appeal is the heart of the conservative republican strategy to get out the vote. The real agenda, of course, are the economic policies that get passed quietly while all the noise is being made about the issues that make us uncomfortable. (Thomas Frank has done an excellent job of outlining this strategy in What’s the Matter with Kansas.)

When I left Texas for graduate school in 1989 I had little experience with anyone who was openly homosexual. Though I liked to think of myself tolerant and liberal, I had no direct experience.

The first thing that happened to me upon arriving in Southern California was to end up living with a gay man in a rent house in Claremont. I was literally walking the streets looking for a place to live and this guy put me up in a room in his house. For nine months I took part in parties, dinners, and general lounging about. Whatever was different from straight culture was learned and became a matter of course. There was never any issue about me being straight and him being gay.

I once asked a good friend of mine who is a thoughtful, conservative republican how many gay people he had known. He couldn't think of any. Up until that point he had been against policies benefitting gays and for policies that were detrimental to them. One night we talked calmly through it for about thirty minutes and when it came down to it he was just uncomfortable. He didn't have any practical experience. He had, if not fear, then wariness. In the end he understood that, based on his own reasoning and moral sense, that there was no reason to fear gays or treat them differently than anyone else.

I can still hear him running through the logic for the first time. Open, honest, and wanting to think for himself, the blinders were being lifted from his eyes. Before that night his internal sense of fairness and justice was obscured by the gloss and blur of ideology. That’s one of the functions of ideology, of faith and loyalty: to make contradictions and troubling ideas invisible behind a fog of seemingly sensible slogans. It had never crossed his mind because for that subject, the conservative ideology had stood in for thinking, as shorthand for actual reasoning. For many people, a highly selective and politicized reading of the Bible plays the same role.

In my view anyone who hasn't befriended someone who is gay or has a gay family member has no basis for voting on a public policy matter that affects gays, period. It's much easier to say "gays are bad" (because they have sex in ways we don't understand) than to explain a corporate agenda while leaving out the part about massive campaign contributions and policies that exclusively benefit the very wealthy. This is why most people regularly vote against their own economic interests. Culture war strategists mask their family destroying policies with cynical "pro-family" rhetoric. It's disgusting.

Gay relationships are not a threat to my heterosexual marriage. The real threats are conservative republican economic policies on health insurance, retirement, bankruptcy, education, consumer protection, and the environment. A state with sky high divorce rates and the largest number of children without health insurance needs to look elsewhere for the culprit - like to its own leadership.

Liberal Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country. Conservative Texas has nearly double that rate. In fact most of the red states have much higher divorce rates than the blue states. And here's the kicker: born again Christians have among the highest divorce rates.

I think the biggest sin that many Christians make is to have such confidence in their understanding of the will of God that they can base specific policy decisions on it. That is a consumer christianity that is nothing more than a propaganda tool of conservative politicians.

McJesus wants you to drive a giant SUV and vote Republican, hate gays, and keep your fucking mouth shut. And so does Tom Delay and Governor Perry.

The real Jesus said nothing about SUV's, homosexuality, or republicans.


Posted by Dean Terry at November 20, 2005 10:49 PM

That we have codified bias against a whole group of people in our State Constitution astounds me. That such bias is seen as legal and ethical in a Democratic society is even more astounding. Substitute "gay" for "black," and see what I mean.

As a married straight woman I was not fearful that gay marriage would harm my family. But as an American citizen who believes in Democracy and the freedoms it ensures its people, I did feel that Prop 2 would harm my country.


Posted by: Dene Grigar at November 21, 2005 09:59 AM

Great discussion!

As you suggest, one disturbing aspect is the all-but-complete absence of any thoughtful discussion.

Among other things, Ive yet to hear it acknowledged in so many words that were basically saying that love, commitment, children, sex, etc.none of that really matters. Because ALL of those criteria can be lacking, and we'll still allow you to marry or remain married, so long as you happen to have the right bits of flesh between your legs; and even where all other possible criteria are present, if you dont have the right bits of flesh, you cant be married.

We'll even permit a gay man and a lesbian to marry. But above all else, THERE MUST BE ONE PENIS, ONE VAGINA.

In eons past, this definition might have been the best we could come up with; but surely we can do better now.

Posted by: Carolyn Sortor at November 22, 2005 12:06 AM




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