Thursday, May 21, 2015

Evolution flows; but are we there yet?

I recall a conversation I once had with a veteran reporter-type back when I was an Illinois Statehouse reporter back in the mid-1990s with regards to the way political people handled themselves whenever issues related to sexual orientation came up.

This conversation took place back at a time when Republicans had complete control of state government (both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office) and were willing to use it to bring up bills that were considered offensive to gay rights activists.

HECK, IT WAS an era when GOP officials felt compelled to use their influence to make sure that people understood that marriage between homosexual couples could NEVER be considered legitimate. Even though no one ever thought that Illinois law permitted it beforehand.

But my elder colleague – who has since gone on to mentor many new generations of reporters – said he noticed the difference from his early days at the Illinois Statehouse (back when the governor was named “Ogilvie”) whenever such issues came up.

Back then, he said, the opposition to anything considered sympathetic to gay people was vocal. He recalled how legislators felt compelled to speak out in as graphic of terms as they could.

Talk of how gay people “consumed human waste” and did all other sorts of perverted acts came out. Like it was a political battle to see who could be the most disgusting with their rhetoric.

BY THE TIME I was a reporter-type covering the daily activity of a Legislature, the tone had shifted.

DURKIN: A rare "yes" GOP vote?
There was still opposition. I’m sure there were some of the General Assembly members who really thought there was some act of perversion taking place.

But it always seemed that the only political people who felt compelled to speak were the ones who were determined to put themselves on the record as being in favor of issues of concern for gay people.

Which would make writing up stories about those legislative actions odd. Because you’d have stories filled up with quotations from political people who supported an issue that the majority opposed.

IT WOULD BECOME difficult to find people willing to speak out against the issue with anything other than the most dangerous action they could take – their vote.

DeLUCA: A rare Chicago-area "no."
Their majority of people willing to vote “no” so as to assuage those individuals in our society who are determined to think of anyone who isn’t exactly like themselves as being less than human.

Those people still remain. They’re more outspoken than ever. But it would seem the political evolution continues.

For I couldn’t help but notice an Associated Press dispatch on Tuesday from when the Illinois House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would outlaw programs that claim to be a medical way of converting people away from homosexuality.

AS THOUGH sexual orientation and identity were some sort of disease that could be eradicated from people if they would just go out and get cured. California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia already have such laws in place.

The bill actually got seven Republican legislators to vote “yes,” including House Minority Leader James Durkin of Western Springs. Also, there were six Democrats, including one local legislator (Anthony DeLuca of Chicago Heights) who voted “no.” So it’s not purely urban versus rural people on this issue.

But no one felt compelled to say anything publicly. Legislators, who are more than capable of bloviating beyond belief, just kept their mouths shut and voted. Do even the legislators who vehemently hate the idea of doing anything to support gay people realize that their rhetoric is pure nonsense?

Fewer political people feeling the need to say something stupid? A harmful notion to a reporter-type person in need of material to create intriguing copy. But perhaps a positive for our society as a whole!


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