Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Aug 6, 2004

Out but not In - Yet

This presidential election is so close that after it is over every special interest group in America will claim that it was the one group that made the difference. Such will be the case with folks either advocating or opposing the Families First Amendment.

While the majority of Americans lean toward heterosexual marriage national polls do not necessarily show a clear majority of Americans in favor of this Amendment. So far the majority of voters are more concerned about the Nation's economy and the war in Iraq. Nonetheless, if a gay-marriage ban draws enough voters to the polls it could still determine whether Kerry or Bush wins.

The first electoral test of this proposition has been handed down in Missouri.  Missouri is a battleground state and a bastion of Christian conservatism. By a decisive 70% to 30% vote Missouri has adopted an amendment to the State Constitution banning gay marriage. At least nine other states will have similar referenda on their ballot this year. Of these, however, only Oregon comes close to being a battleground state. The other states voting on this issue seem likely to remain in the George Bush column.

It's too bad for the President that Missouri decided the issue during a primary election. Had the referendum's supporters come out in such numbers in November it could have tipped Missouri to Bush.  Getting the referendum out of the way early is a boon for John Kerry who still stands an even chance of winning the "show me" state.

Gays (formerly homosexuals), who have made great strides stepping out of the closet, still aren't quite in. Many Americans still hew to the "love the sinner hate the sin" point of view.  In fact, gay activists have been hobbled by their dependence on the courts to win coveted rights. That's because America is still a nation whose people like to call the shots. When American courts pass down rulings that contravene the popular will they provoke real resentment.  Missouri's vote will almost certainly be repeated as more states rush to prevent courts from enforcing gay unions.

This is as it should be. Democracy does not guarantee that just or humane values will prevail. Democracy only guarantees that the people (at least those who show up to vote) will get the government that they want. The minority must be reconciled to its right to voice its opinion and the hope that it can change the will of the majority. I'm persuaded that gay marriage has a lot to recommend it but I feel even more passionately that such decisions should rest in the hands of voters.

I am frankly astonished at how swiftly gay Americans have won so much acceptance. In 1962, when I was twelve, the Otto Preminger movie Advise and Consent showed a Jack Kennedy type character commit suicide rather than face public exposure for a brief homosexual fling. That's how awful it was to be gay when I was a kid. I still remember the movie's freakish depiction of a gay bar that accurately reflected the public's revulsion of "queers."

Even as late as 1981, anti-gay Christians discouraged NBC from letting Tony Randall portray a sympathetic gay character on the inoffensive sitcom Love Sidney.

The Gay revolution began during the "Stonewall Riots" in 1969 when New York vice police raided a gay bar only to meet fierce resistance from the gay patrons. The real gays were tired of being treated like the freaks in the Preminger movie.

Today, 37 years later, some of those same police and gay rioters get together annually to play baseball and picnic. This is not to say that New York cops are any more eager to approve gay marriage than Missouri's voters but it surely is a sign that the tide has turned.

Any anti-gay constitutional amendment will be hard to dislodge but such an amendment will still be vulnerable to the same fate as the Eighteenth Amendment which banned the consumption of alcohol. "Prohibition" was repealed by another Amendment just fifteen years later.

The electorate for good or ill decides. That's democracy! The challenge for gay-rights supporters and their conservative Christian opponents is to appeal to the public. In the long run I have little doubt about which side will win. I'm hoping it's the one that appeals to our better angels.

Picnic, Anyone?

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com