Monday, June 27, 2011

We’re evolving, but not quite there yet

I can remember having a conversation about a decade ago with a fellow reporter-type person, albeit one who is about 20 years older than myself.
EMANUEL: Making the most of Pride parade

The topic of discussion was the political perception of issues that in any way involved gay people. He had noticed the change during his time as a reporter, and a part of me wondered if he was passing along this tidbit to me so I could better comprehend the evolution of the issue in future years.

FOR AS HE recalled it, his early years as a reporter in the early 1970s were a time when politicians would eagerly vote against anything that hinted at sympathy to gay people.

Political debate on such bills would be filled with raunchy rhetoric about sodomy and people who “consumed human waste.”

But by the time he told me this story in the late 1990s, such bills would come up for consideration and would be filled with debate from people who expressed concern about human rights issues. The opposition, by and large, was just as disgusted as their counterparts of two decades earlier were.

But they kept their mouths shut, because they knew any attempt to speak out would not only be perceived as homophobia – it WOULD be homophobia. One wrong word on their part, and they’d ensure the fact that their eventual obituaries would contain the word “bigot” in the lede.

AND NOW, WE’RE at a stage where such bills can actually get majority support.

It was earlier this month in Illinois that we got the concept of civil unions, making it possible for gay couples to participate in something with legal standing that recognizes their life partnership and entitles them to the same legal rights as a more traditional (as in heterosexual) married couple.

New York managed to one-up us. Their state Legislature went so far last week as to approve a bill that lets gay couples get married, just like any other couple.

Maybe they won’t be able to walk into a Catholic church and have a priest officiate at the ceremony. But they’ll be able to show up at City Hall like any other couple, and I’m not convinced that many gay couples are all that interested in the traditional church wedding.

IT’S JUST A matter of time before this happens everywhere, although I’m sure there are going to be some states that are going to persist in holding out against this issue – making themselves look ridiculous in the process.

Which state will become the “gay marriage” equivalent of the Boston Red Sox, the last major league ballclub willing to have a black ballplayer on the roster – only 12 years after the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first?

Of course, there are those who are determined to be miserable at the thought of people being treated equally regardless of orientation (and anybody who’s thinking of sending me e-mail messages about how these political acts will lead to the denigration of our society by allowing people to marry their cocker spaniels, I’d respond that you’re completely missing the point).

Then again, you’re probably the grand-son of one of those crackpots of the past who was obsessed with human waste.

YOU MAY WELL be one of the people who thinks the New York Post did something admirable on Saturday. While other New York newspapers were playing up the story big and treating it as an act of history, the Post (which likes to think it has the most dramatic newspaper front page graphics in the business) buried the story with a single line at the bottom of the page – totally obscured by their lede story.
Get out the magnifying glass

The cop who stopped a woman from committing suicide.

Cute, but not exactly earth-shattering – especially since the front-page art was largely a photograph of a brick building that could have existed anywhere.

But such news judgment did play in into the way the ideologues of the world would like to think. Some people are just determined to live in the year 1952. Ignore the issue, and maybe it will go away.

BUT IT DIDN’T. Just like the annual Pride Parade in Chicago (which has been taking place for 42 years now, literally since the days of politicians who talked incessantly of “human waste”) didn’t go away on Sunday, just because someone tried slashing the tires of several of the floats that participated in the event.

I have to admire the parade organizers who managed to arrange for quickie repairs Sunday morning. The Chicago Tribune reported that they managed to have the overwhelming majority of the floats up and ready to ride in the parade by its scheduled noon time.

The parade float order may have been switched a bit – meaning that somebody was probably denied a chance to be at the head of the parade and had to ride in the middle somewhere.

But I’d argue that such a shift would be a good thing. Because this parade had at its head Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who behaved like a typical politician at such an event.

EXCESSIVE HAND-SHAKING AND waving, and even a couple of baby-kissings sighted.

Letting oneself get too close to a politician. Now that is a potentially dangerous condition. When was the last time a gay person hit you up for a campaign contribution?


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