Gay Pride And Civil Rights

Recently Volokh Conspirator Jacob Levy argued that the Lawrence decision overturning Texas’s sodomy law would be a boon for the Republicans, if they have the sense not to appear sympathetic to such laws by overheated criticism of the Court’s opinion. Now fellow conspirator Juan Non-Volokh makes the complementary point that Lawrence could prove harmful to Democrats “should they seek to stigmatize any aversion to homosexuality as an immoral, extreme, or otherwise illegitimate public position.”

As luck would have it my wife and I were in San Francisco during Gay Pride Week (we still are), and thus we had the opportunity to observe at close hand the celebrations of Lawrence that erupted across the city and in its media.. From what we’ve seen I think Juan Non- has a good point, but I’d like to make a different one.

The lead article taking up a good portion of the front page of Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle was taken up by an article that ran under the headline, “S.F. gay pride mixes zaniness, seriousness.” Although the large color picture of “Molly Mckay and Davina Kotulski, who are from Marriage Equality California, kiss[ing] during the pride parade” was sedate enough (different pictures accompany the online article), I can assure you that much of what is regarded as “zany” in San Francisco would not be so regarded elsewhere. But that is not my point.

The second paragraph of the article is what caught my attention:

While conceding nothing to the zany nature of past pride parades, this 33rd version carried an unusual sense of the serious issues that accompany being gay. For every chaps-clad rodeo queen came a sign-toting advocate for same-sex marriages. For every dyke on a bike, an activist demanding gay civil rights.

Although I have not studied the issue (and welcome comments from those who have), I have long thought it evident that much of the opposition to gay civil rights stems from a fear that equal rights for gays really means, as it is usually stated, “special rights.” Since so many opponents say this, I see little reason to doubt it. (That’s not to say such opposition is the only reason people oppose gay rights.) It’s easy to say that such fears reflect bias, but I’ve always thought it harder to demonstrate that they are false. Those people have seen women and blacks campaign for decades and longer for “equal rights” only to demand preferences as soon as equal rights were legislated. Is it so unreasonable to suspect that the campaign for gay rights might follow the same course?

And why shouldn’t it? As I’ve asked before, insofar as the proponents of “diversity” mean what they say, won’t they be compelled by their new principle to insure that entering classes contain a “critical mass” not only of gays and lesbians, who may be prevalent enough (but, of course, may not) to appear without preferences, but also of transgendered males and females, who may not so readily appear without investigation and recruitment? Of course, in order for any of them to contribute to “diversity” they would have to be open in their sexual expression, not in the closet, and this need might also have to be reflected in new admissions methods and procedures that in an earlier day might have been seen to infringe upon a privacy interest.

Say What? (7)

  1. Amritas July 2, 2003 at 4:40 am | | Reply

    I agree with your sad prediction for the gay rights movement. I believe in *human* rights (includng women, blacks, gays, you name it), and I would like to hope that an upcoming PC backlash will result in gay rights without gay preferences. But after a certain very SAD DAY, I’m inclined to fear the worst.

    Still, I think it’s wrong to oppose gay rights out of fear of the worst possible scenario. I can’t imagine myself saying to blacks and women decades ago, “Sorry, no rights for you because they’ll result in a cult of affirmative action.”

  2. John Rosenberg July 2, 2003 at 4:49 am | | Reply

    Amritas – I completely agree with both of your points. Fear that equal rights might (even “will”) lead to a demand for special rights, i.e., preferences, provides no justification whatsoever for opposing equal rights. They are, after all, rights, and thus not something to be extended or withheld by us (whoever “we” are) based on some instrumental calculus of likely results.

  3. Andrew Lazarus July 2, 2003 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

    Personally, I would have been eager to see the results if O’Connor’s reasoning had carried the day. At least as I understand it, Yick Wo requires that the law also be enforced fairly, and I couldn’t wait to see what straight Republican married couples busted during foreplay would do at the ballot box.

    As far as the original point, I think it’s well taken, precisely because at least in California, I don’t see anti-gay bigotry as likely to have lingering economic or legal consequences deserving specific remediation. I don’t hold that true with race. Perhaps sexual preference will end up more like religion, where I don’t think there’s much worry about “special rights” (outside of the whole creationism mess), and partly because sexual preference, like religion and unlike race and gender, is often not obvious in the workplace.

    Hey, John, if you make it over to Berkeley this week, let me buy you a beer.

  4. Dawn November 3, 2004 at 4:10 pm | | Reply

    What is it that bothers you about gay people? Why is it ok for them to cut your hair or decorate your house or plan your wedding, but not get married themselves? You laugh at them on television and adore the clothes they design, but you refuse them simple basic equality. This is America isn’t it? The land of the free and the home of the brave? How ironic.

    I woke up this morning and I’m seeing the world in a whole new light. To look at me, you would not know that I am gay. It’s a part of me, but it’s not all that I am. It’s not even most of who I am. I balance hard work with school and other interests. At the end of each day, I come home to a nice apartment to unwind and share my life with my partner; the woman with whom I live and love and our cat. We are a family. We are decent people. We work hard, we pay our bills, we have dreams and aspirations. We contribute to society adding to its diversity and benefiting it economically. We speak the language and we pay our taxes. All we seek is freedom and equality.

    Nearly four years ago, I realized a life-changing event. I fell in love with a woman and the black and white life that I had led was transformed to full Technicolor. I never before considered that I was gay, but I always knew that something was missing from my life. All of my relationships were unsatisfying with men, but I didn’t know why.

    Since that time, I have never looked back. I have never been so happy, content, and fulfilled. The fight over “is it a choice” or “you’re born gay” is incendiary. I have two thoughts on this matter. First, let me put you all to rest by saying it’s both! People are born gay. It’s not a learned behavior. However, we do make a choice to live the life. I made a brave choice four years ago to come out. People who hide their true identity aren’t any less gay. It just makes them cowards.

    I am a young voter. Though I have voted in three elections, only this year was I truly informed and effected by promises of each party. Before, I voted just to be a part of the process. Now, I’m committed to making choices that are right for me. I’m a democrat living in an Oklahoma republican world. A news report delivered an astonishing blow to me last night. Nationally, voters were more concerned about discriminating against gay people by disallowing them to be married than they were about the economy, job security, and healthcare. Where is Rod Serling hiding because I hear the familiar music and I just know I must have awoken in The Twilight Zone! If we can’t be accepted, why are we expected to pay taxes? Our money goes to deny the very rights and privileges that we seek.

    Are you so afraid that if gay marriage is legal your spouse will leave you or you kids will turn gay? Am I confused about the experimentation that took place during the 1960s, baby boomers? Orgies, drugs, and promiscuity was commonplace. Now you try to pretend that it never happened with a do-what-I-say-not-do-what-I-did position.

    I’ve come to understand that a lot of people locally equate homosexuality with pedophilia. We are not criminals. Based on news reports, you have more to worry about with your educators and clergy than you do about Mark and Steve three doors down. Your ignorance is sad and laughable.

    You take these decisions so lightly. I was brought to tears by the final tally of question 711. I try to stay open-minded about issues that don’t concern me directly. I think it should be that way for everyone. If you have no direct relationship with the gay community, then when it comes time to vote, you should skip right past the “for” or “against” options and select the “indifferent” option. Only when you discover that your child, your friend, or you coworker is gay will you be able to empathize and truly understand the power of your feelings. The only difference between a homosexual and a heterosexual is what happens behind the bedroom door. That is none of your business anyway.

    You say that you are protecting that sanctity of marriage and it’s religious rituals. Is that best illustrated by Britney Spears‘, Liz Taylor‘s, and Nikki Hilton’s marriages of the moment? No, I bet you prefer the young couples living a secret life of infidelity and domestic abuse. Surely you can’t exclude these righteous examples. Of course these unions are far better than Mary and Sylvia, a monogamous couple together for thirty years, who must show legal documentation as next-of-kin just to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions.

    Most gay people don’t have children making them more economically sound. Did you ever think where that money goes? We buy fine clothes. We eat, drink, and be merry at your restaurants. We travel and make expensive purchases. How would your business be affected without gay dollars?

    You have no idea what your opinions do to us. You are legally discriminating and it’s no different than how we treated the African-American community fifty years ago. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. Change is imminent. There are far worse things in life than knowing someone who is gay.

  5. Albert February 17, 2005 at 4:36 am | | Reply

    In response to Dawn:

    First of all, I have absolutely nothing against homosexuality. I must point out, though, that in your post I found that you have misconceptions — misconceptions held by many people, in fact — about the 1960s. I have researched that decade extensively. In truth, the values of the 1950s carried into the 1960s. It was exactly those values that hippies rebelled against (in addition to protesting the Vietnam War, although hippies were not the only people to do so). Hippies were an extension of the “beatnik” culture that had begun in the 1940s. Hippies started to spring up in the mid-1960s but did not become numerous until the late-’60s. The orgies and promiscuity that you mentioned were part of the “free love” philosphy held by hippies. Free love was a practice held by hippies, but not mainstream America. Hippies were a minority in the U.S., and the hippie lifestyle was viewed in a bad light by mainstream America. It does not seem you realize that the 1960s were a great deal more conservative than today. There was a stigma attached to homosexuality, and gays as a group were closeted up until the revolutionary Stonewall riots that began on June 27, 1969 and ran for three nights, kicking off the Gay Rights Movement (inspired by the Civil Rights Movement) that would last into the 1970s. The Stonewall-era (and earlier) was a time when for even two males to dance with each other would cause them to be arrested. The Stonewall Inn in New York City was an illegaly-operating gay bar/dance club, and during the polices’ nightly raid of the district’s gay bars, this one night the people in Stonewall fought back at the police, kicking off the riots. Gays have come a long way — in terms of their rights to (in a sense)”be” gay — since 1969.

  6. [...] much as a good deal of the opposition to gay rights is not based on antipathy to gays but on a not unreasonable fear that their demand for equal rights is just a prelude to demands for preferential [...]

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