Recently, I've been meeting with a group that's putting together a gay-themed film festival which they hope to make a yearly event. I've enjoyed discussing rare and classic movies, and while I found that their criteria were a bit different than mine: they wanted to highlight important eras in the gay rights movement, while I tended towards movies that were just artistically unique, we ultimately put together a list of five movies for the five nights.
The issue of "gay marriage"* came up- nobody could think of a great film on the topic- and it occurred to me how quickly it has become a non-issue in Canada. Some of the group members are married and one of them actually got married partly because she felt like she owed it to those who had struggled for her to gain the right. It actually became legal in Canada a few days before Claire and I got married almost four years ago. So far, the society hasn't collapsed.
Similarly, this year began in the United States with gay rights groups heartbroken about losing the right in California, and now it looks like they'll win the right in several other states. I wonder if there won't be a domino effect wherein state after state legalizes the practice. History moves so quickly, doesn't it? New York has proposed making it legal, and I'll vote for it when it's on the ballot. What will gay rights groups do when they're equal under the law? Will they all start holding film festivals instead of marching?
I wasn't surprised by Maine- half of my family are Mainers; they're all Reagan republicans, and they're all fine with gays being married. The reason I think gay marriage will eventually be legal everywhere in the US is simple- to get me to vote against it, as a reasonable person, you have to convince me that if two guys down the street get married, it has any bearing whatsoever on my life, which it just doesn't. It also doesn't hurt that I've lived in four different cities, been actively involved in the arts, and am very used to being around gays. To me, they're like Trekkies: maybe not so common, but not particularly strange either.
I've tried to understand why some people are so uncomfortable with gays and I'm not sure I can fathom it. The closest comparison I can think of is to the unease that I feel about certain sexual fetishes. However, this comparison doesn't really hold water because there's a fairly clear difference between sexual practices and emotional relationships. For the most part, hearing about anybody's sexual practices is awkward, but a wedding isn't about that- (thank goodness! Could you imagine if you had to sit there listening to the bride and groom talking about blow jobs or something?) It's simply about welcoming a couple into the larger society and celebrating their union. Most of the problems people have with gay marriage seem irrational to me. Why is it their business?
I also don't understand why the Republican Party, which talks a lot about getting the government off our back, thinks the state should be in the business of deciding whose relationships are valid. But the "coalition" of libertarians, gun nuts, and blue-nosey busybodies never really made much sense to me. Personally, I don't see the merit in having state marriage licensing. And honestly, I think my generation finds something rather grotesque about the cultural struggles of the right, even if we can see the value in fiscal conservatism. In this case, they've hitched their wagon to a star that burned out long ago. They should cut themselves loose.
For some people, there will always be the religious issue- certain religions are fairly straightforward in their condemnation of homosexuality, and I can respect that believers can't pick or choose their beliefs, although most of them do to some extent. Maybe certain churches won't perform the service. But, who cares? Honestly, getting married is friggin' expensive! It's hard for me to believe that there are many gays who would want to spend a fortune to be married by a priest who is opposed to them being married. Actually, that doesn't even make sense to me.
Besides, there are always churches that will perform the services. I think there's a value in letting other people live their own lives as they see fit. It seems like Americans are increasingly okay with getting their noses out of each other's business- I don't know if this constitutes a "civil liberties surge", but it's certainly welcome.
*"Gay marriage" is a pretty stupid term for what's basically just marriage, isn't it? I can imagine that we'll have "gay home owning" next, or "gay gardening", or maybe "gay napping". Let's hope that portmanteau fades into obscurity ere long.