Today is Wednesday, May 14, 2014
On Saturday, May 10th, something occurred here in the U.S. and in Europe that can only be described as a breakthrough–a moment in time when suddenly the world is now different and without question better. A transvestite, Thomas Neuwirth, aka, Conchita Wurst , of Austria won the Eurovision song competition with her incredible rendition of ‘Rise Like a Phoenix.’ There was a swift negative response from Belarus and Russia calling it decadent and inappropriate for their television audiences. Of course, they would say something that ridiculous; they’ve recently taken giant steps backwards in their societies regarding the LGBT community. Ironically, the song was the #1 download in Russia on Sunday. Here’s a video of the performance if you haven’t seen it yet:
But it wasn’t just in Europe that we saw a breakthrough. Michael Sam was drafted by the NFL to play for the St. Louis Rams–the first openly gay professional player. The media was there when the announcement came through and he jumped in joy, grabbed his boyfriend and kissed him–oh my! For the whole world to see! But the media treated it like they did any other player they covered in the draft, so I have to give it to the sports media for behaving well and reporting it in their usual banal routine manner. AND THAT’s THE REAL BREAKTHROUGH.
And it does not stop there. Arkansas began marrying same-sex couples on Saturday after the state supreme court declared their ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Of course, there’s a movement to appeal the decision, but until that appeal has been certified, gay marriages are taking place. Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia have all had their marriage bans declared unconstitutional recently–and now Idaho as of yesterday. In April, the Oregon courts were set to hear arguments to remove the ban on same-sex marriages, but the State said it wouldn’t defend the law, because it was in clear violation of the Constitution after last June’s Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. However, an out-of-state ‘family’ organization filed in court to represent the defense of the ban, so marriage equality in Oregon has to wait until the court decides what to do with that. This morning at 9:00am in Eugene OR, a federal judge began hearing this outside group’s petition. The judge will have to decide whether the group even has standing in the State of Oregon–that still is not clear–to be able to present arguments for keeping the ban. I don’t understand enough of the law to know whether some socially conservative religious/protect-the-family group from the Midwest has the right to go to another state and basically be a proxy for the state Attorney General. Somehow that sounds unlikely to me. There could be a decision as early as 11:00am this morning. So watch for it!
Ironically, the resistance to the constitutional support for same-gender marriage, flies in the face of social reality. The first same-sex wedding was performed in Annapolis at the US Naval Academy on Saturday as well. That’s another amazing breakthrough after the gay witch hunts in the military during the 1980s, then Don’t Ask Don’t Tell beginning in 1993, and its demise a couple years ago by a presidential executive decision.
The transformation in this country regarding civil rights began in the years after WWII, but the 1950s and early 1960s were difficult after the 1954 decision, Brown vs Board of Education that ended segregation of the races. The white resistance to integration became extreme and it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to start moving this country in the right direction. For LGBT, the first public effort to protest the government’s persecution, prosecution, pathologizing and demonizing of gay people began with Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society’s first demonstration on July 4, 1965 in front of the White House. They went on to demonstrate against the State Department hiring/firing practices. Here’s a short report on Kameny and his efforts with some old footage from 1965 of the first protests.
So, what began in 1965 as a small, mostly ignored protest by a group of gays and lesbians, then picked up steam after the Stonewall riots of June 28-July 3, 1969, and gained some level of national sympathy after the Harvey Milk assassination, has now reached some kind of fruition. There’s a new energy in the country around these issues and amazing social and legal breakthroughs as we witnessed them this week. There will always be the Bible thumpers who won’t mind their own business and will continue to resist these changes. But, you know, let’s not hate them. Love the sinner, hate the sin of bigotry and prejudice. We are changing in spite of their resistance and there is no going back. The breakthroughs, at this point, seem irreversible.
UPDATE: The Federal Judge in Eugene ruled that the National Organization for Marriage had no standing in Oregon and he wasn’t about to allow a third party to come in to testify as a proxy for the state government, when the state didn’t request it. But he still hasn’t ruled on the case that he heard in April.