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April 09, 2010

Anti-Gay Marriage Diehards Keep Losing

I have sent the following message to themail at dcwatch dot com in response to recent postings there (and thanks to Andy Litsky for bringing them to my attention):

On April 4, Gary Imhoff rightly noted Valencia Mohammed's nasty, narrow, and ahistorical attacks on behalf of mayoral candidate Leo Alexander, yet Gary himself could not resist showing his own bias when he wrote that Vincent Gray "has shared Fenty’s contempt for traditional morality, and has echoed Fenty’s opposition to allowing citizens to vote on the definition of marriage." By "traditional morality" might Gary be referring to couples sealing their commitment to one another with a public, legal contract? Recognizing that love is what makes a family? Respecting other people's differences in a diverse city? Acknowledging that children are better off when their parents are legally married, that many same-sex couples are raising children, and that this has been the law since a court ruling in 1995? Embracing the Founders' assertion that all men are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

If Gary is talking instead about a more negative tradition of intolerance against gay people, I would point out that in the 19th century, many ministers of God cited Scripture in support of the tradition of slavery. No, the two struggles are not the same, but intolerance and discrimination are ugly in either case. God gave us brains and voices with which to question traditions that are unjust and exclusionary. People have created civil government, and in America we have the constitutional separation of church and state (as Thomas Jefferson put it in describing the First Amendment), so that religious doctrines may not be used by adherents of one sect to oppress others. Gary may have noticed the thundering silence of most of our city's clergy in response to the demagoguery of carpetbagging Bishop Harry Jackson; apparently, they want no part of Jackson's mischief. The fact is that neither Harry Jackson nor Gary Imhoff has a monopoly on morality, and numerous polls show that a majority of Washingtonians disagrees with them on the legal question.

Valencia's campaign-mode confidence reminds me of past flacks sneering at the poor boobs who failed to see the inevitability of their candidate's victory. If she thinks that insulting large swaths of the electorate will help her candidate, I say good luck. We'll see how well that works for her.

Valencia on April 4 wrote about a "revolution" that's going to sweep her candidate into office; then on April 7 she referred to gay protesters outside Scripture Cathedral as "rebels." I am not sure that this is a good time to be pushing war metaphors, but leave that aside. Also leave aside the fact that, whatever obscenities some gay demonstrators may have used in a protest outside that church, they could hardly have been worse than the anti-gay vitriol coming from that church's pulpit, which Valencia entirely ignores; and the vast majority of gay citizens were not at those demonstrations. The term "rebels," to the extent that Valencia has in mind the gay population generally, hardly seems apt given the pro-gay side's overwhelming victory on the marriage-equality bill--a victory not won by rebellion but by decades of working within the system. We won despite a great deal of vitriol and fear-mongering from some anti-gay pastors and their acolytes, a substantial number of whom are from Ward 9. On the pro-gay side were 200 clergy who (perhaps radically, from Valencia's point of view) preach respect for all of our families.

Valencia's denial of political reality on this is something she shares with Gary, who continues pounding away with his insistence that the people have been denied a say on marriage. Ward 5 ANC commissioner Bob King recently announced, along with Bishop Harry Jackson, a campaign to defeat Mayor Fenty and the eleven councilmembers who supported the marriage equality bill. Leo Alexander is just their cup of tea. We get a hint of the unreality involved when Valencia states that she has no use for either Jack Evans or Kwame Brown as Council chair. She must be similarly frustrated by the Democratic at-large Council race, in which Phil Mendelson is challenged by the openly gay Clark Ray. With these as the leading alternatives, where will Valencia's revolution come from, other than her fevered imagination?

The people already have spoken, many times. We have a representative democracy, folks, and our legislature thirty-one years ago, under the leadership of Arrington Dixon, enacted a prohibition against ballot measures in which people would vote on other people's rights. Congress has never challenged that prohibition. Local civil rights leaders, including veterans of Mississippi Freedom Summer like Lawrence Guyot and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, support that prohibition and support equal protection for all the families in our city. Those who disagree had the opportunity to lobby on the marriage bill, testify against it during two long days of hearings, and testify at several hearings before the Board of Elections and Ethics. They also have the right to vote in the next election, assuming they are registered to vote in D.C., which many opponents of D.C. marriage equality are not.

Come September, after Valencia and her revolutionaries have failed to replace a single incumbent with an anti-gay candidate, will they continue talking as if the voters don't know what they're doing? It is no accident that our city consistently elects an overwhelmingly pro-gay legislature, or that anti-gay candidates consistently lose. Gay people have deep roots in this city. We are of many colors and faiths, and are found in every neighborhood. Those who continue to demonize us for political gain are well past the point where they should have done a post-mortem. They have not only underestimated gay rights advocates, they have underestimated the people of this city. The fact is that we won civil marriage equality in D.C. the old-fashioned way: we earned it.


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