Stand Up for Your (Gay Friend’s) Rights

My friend Winter Miller wrote this piece for the Boston Globe. 

I’m reposting it here with her permission.

love-unitesIT SURE was nice to see Barack Obama stand up for Roe v. Wade in the presidential debates. It would also have been nice if he’d stood up for gay marriage. But no one mentioned gay marriage in any of the presidential debates and, what’s more, Obama doesn’t support gay marriage.

As this election unfolds, I’m trying to figure out whom I’m most angered by, Obama or all the straight people I know who haven’t stood up for gay rights. If the majority doesn’t clamor for change, then politicians have no reason to go out on a limb.

As a gay woman, it is unlikely I would need access to abortion. Still, I believe all women regardless of age, income, or circumstance should have a right to choose abortion.

The only mention of gay marriage this debate season was between Senator Joseph Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. I listened as Biden called for same sex unions with the same rights as marriage, a proposition that unfailingly rings of separate but equal. Like most liberals, you probably thought, gosh, gays are accepted now, this is progress.

Let me get this straight: My biracial candidate wants to drink from different water fountains? I looked down at my Obama T-shirt and wondered if I had the heart to go campaign for him.

Those of you who have gay friends, we appreciate your friendship; in fact, nothing says friendship like standing up for us in the face of bigoted adversity. Where is the outrage? Should I be mollified that Ellen DeGeneres’s wedding made the cover of People magazine, as did Clay Aiken’s declaration of gayness? Should I cheer when my email home page pops up a sighting of Lindsay Lohan with her girlfriend? I cheer all right; I think about all the isolated teenagers who are less likely to commit suicide or be ostracized when they see examples of cultural acceptance.

We have seen that public opinion shifts with greater nuance; that the gay lifestyle isn’t so much a hedonistic orgiastic cult as “Leave it to Beaver” where June and June swap wearing the apron and Ward and Ward take turns dropping Wally and Beaver at football and soccer.

Last month, a poll in the Washington Post showed 55 percent of California voters opposed an initiative banning a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, while only 38 percent favored the ban. In a recent Time magazine poll, 72 percent said if a presidential candidate held a position on gay marriage different from their own they’d still consider voting for him, compared with 22 percent who said they wouldn’t vote for him. The same poll showed a tie over opinions about gay and lesbians marrying and receiving the same legal rights as heterosexuals. The tide is turning. Gay marriage is a civil distinction. Whether a particular house of worship chooses to support it is a faith-by-faith decision.

Clearly, the battle is to be fought not at the federal level, but state by state. Three states have legalized gay marriage; Massachusetts was the pioneer in 2004, followed by California in 2008, and Connecticut last week. In Vermont, New Jersey, and New Hampshire, civil unions are recognized. There are domestic partner laws permitting partial benefits found in civil unions in Oregon, Hawaii, Maine, and Washington.

The must-do list is long: gay rights, hate-crime deterrents, universal healthcare, equal access to equally good schools, and more – in short, all the things each of us would want for our families, especially when we find ourselves holding the short end of the stick.

The next time you see your gay friend/relative/neighbor, think about the rights you were born into and the rights of others for which you’ve fought. Ask yourself if you can go beyond your comfort zone to advocate for the right for all of us, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, ability, or religion, to pursue and achieve liberty and happiness.

I don’t know if I will choose to marry, just as I never knew if I would choose an abortion, but our convictions mean the most when they include those beyond ourselves.

Winter Miller is author of the plays In Darfur and The Penetration Play.

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One response to “Stand Up for Your (Gay Friend’s) Rights

  1. Most of our Straight Allies are very silent, and it’s difficult to NOT take it personally, esp. since most of them are also our friends & family. If a fraction STOOD UP and DEMANDED Marriage Equality for their Daughters, Grandsons, Sisters, and Grandmothers, the ‘Gay’ Marriage conversation in this country would shift from whispers to raucous in a heartbeat. But our loved ones are in a Closet of Fear. Speaking out means confronting The Spiritual Arrogants, and we all know how intolerant THAT crowd can be!

    Is it really a matter of “better you than me”?
    I hope not.

    But the SILENCE is literally killing us.

    Will you join the conversation? Will you help to insure your Sons, Granddaughters, Brothers, and Grandfathers have “the right of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness”? I realize you never fathomed that we’d wanna get hitched, but stop…..THINK about it for a minute. We are SOUL-SPIRITS in human bodies. And if you don’t believe in souls, will you at least consider us HUMAN BEINGS?

    One thing about our stories – they are both CRUCIAL and IRRELEVANT.
    While it is CRUCIAL for Heterosexual America to know specifically how Marriage Inequality hurts LGBT Families, the details are IRRELEVANT when it comes to law. The myriad of horror stories are not the reason for Civil Marriage – It’s about EQUALITY under the law!

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