In 1986 the Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to prosecute a man for having consensual sex with another man in the privacy of his own home. Yesterday the President of the United States stated unequivocally that he believes that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. Despite allegations of political calculation, disappointment at his support of a state’s rights to ban same-sex marriage, and instantaneous speculation about how the decision will play in November, let’s take a moment and appreciate what this moment means.
In just 26 years we have gone from a country where few people questioned the wisdom of arresting and prosecuting homosexuals to a country where a president up for reelection decides that it is politically expedient to support gay marriage. When I was in high school I didn’t know anyone who was out and the only people who talked about homosexuals were the militant Christian kids denouncing them. (One of whom wore a backpack with “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” written on it. Even then I knew that any cause that required rhyming to make its point was intellectually bankrupt.) Today young gay kids can know that the president of the United States thinks they are fully human, worthy of love, and deserving of the same rights as everyone else.
I do deeply disagree with the concept of allowing the majority to vote on the rights of a minority but today I am feeling more confident than ever that momentum and history are on our side. In Cincinnati I know very few people, even among my friends and family who are more conservative, who are opposed to giving homosexuals equal rights. According to Christian author and blogger Rachel Held Evans, even the vast majority of young Evangelical Christians oppose the way that their religion is handling the issue of gay marriage. It’s moments like this that give me hope for the future even while more and more states pass far-reaching constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage (I’m looking at you North Carolina), restrict reproductive rights (Oklahoma), ban sex education (Utah), or ban teachers from even talking about homosexuality (Tennessee). As ugly and scary as these new laws are, I have to believe that they are the death throes of a medieval understanding of human sexuality and not the first sign of a coming dystopian future, a-la The Handmaid’s Tale.