As we approach the end of yet another year, many use the opportunity to look back at the fantastic positives as well as the unfortunate negatives of the previous 52 weeks. The mainstream press and television will look at a broad spectrum of good and bad regarding every subject imaginable. We’ll re-live every glory, but certainly re-shed every tear from things such as Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown tragedy. Certainly in 2012 there have been plenty of both good and bad to reflect on as we prepare for 2013. I want to focus though, on 2012 from the perspective of a (Metro DC) PFLAG Dad and the LGBT community as a whole.
Election Day brought back a president that has been the most supportive of LGBT rights in our nation’s history. That same election saw the first three times that marriage equality passed the judgment of voters. The importance of those votes can’t be overestimated in their significance. Don’t believe for a minute that we’d be talking about the Supreme Court taking a look-see at the Defense of Marriage Act and its ramifications without those electoral successes. That’s not the only ripple that will come from the election of 2012. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden know that the grass roots efforts of LGBT partners were instrumental in bringing their re-election home. Believe me when I tell you that the Romney campaign and several prominent GOP leaders recognize it as well.
There was a time, less than a decade ago, when Karl Rove actually chose to use gay marriage as a wedge issue, and to use his party’s opposition as a tool to unite his forces to re-elect George W Bush. It worked. The changes though, of feelings have not come in ripples, but in waves. I don’t think even the most hopeful could have seen it come this quickly, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it’s true. At this point the Republican Party doesn’t want to discuss the issue, although support for DOMA was still in their party platform. When it was brought up, it was the Democrats being accused of using gay rights as a wedge issue. Between us, that made me smile and allowed me to realize we were winning the hearts of many.
We all have seen that young people are far more accepting of gay people in general than ever before, and so they are much more likely to approve of gay marriage than their older counterparts. It goes much deeper than that though. It’s plain to see that with some states allowing same-sex marriage for quite a few years now, the world has not come to an end. (Despite the Mayan prediction, we still wake up each day.) Many skeptics have had a chance to see first-hand that men are marrying men and women are marrying women, and their life still goes on as it did before. It truly has no effect on you unless you’re gay, and if you aren’t, then it is none of your business anyway. If your church doesn’t care to participate there will not be an edict requiring such. Thankfully, there are plenty of affirming churches more than willing to pick up the slack. So, get over yourselves.
Whether or not the Supreme Court agrees remains to be seen, but several courts at the District and Appellate levels have ruled that DOMA, or parts of such, are unconstitutional. This is but one reason to give me optimism about 2013. Of course there are other reasons beyond the general trend in favor of equality that we’ve already seen. As a lifelong Virginian, I’ve always felt that the conservative nature of much of our geographic regions have always caused us to be viewed as a bit backward, and in many ways I still feel that way. In fact, this remains a state that still allows a business to fire someone simply because they are gay. If that’s not backward, I’m not sure how to positively spin it to look in any way progressive. Well, I’m proud to be affiliated with Equality Virginia, a group that is presently working to promote SB701, a bill to end workplace discrimination. We all know that the grassroots level is where everything worthwhile has to begin so EV’s efforts are of course appreciated.
My optimism could be greatly improved though, if only I could note the same growth of straight allies throughout Virginia as I’ve seen in Northern Virginia the past few years. I’ve said many times that the liberties of any minority are only protected when they have the powerful support of the general population. Although we continue to see growth in the “out” LGBT community, we recognize that they will always be a minority. Opportunities to vote on various issues only come up periodically, but hearts and minds need to be changed daily so that the voices will be heard in the voting booth.
I still find it humorous that many stated out loud that they found it odd, or unbelievable that our president said his views on same-sex marriage were “evolving”. I have to say that my beliefs have evolved as well. Although, always identifying myself as a progressive liberal, I didn’t sit around as a young man thinking, “gee, I wish gays could get married just like me”. The thought wasn’t on my radar. In fact, no gay rights were on my radar. I was just as self-centered as the next guy. Thankfully though, that evolution had begun long before my sons came out as gay, or perhaps people would be calling me a hypocrite. The irony as I see it is that the leader of the free world should always be having evolving views. That’s what thoughtful people do. They think, they ponder issues, they listen to various sides, and they evolve. The inability to do so, in my opinion, was the primary weakness of the president’s predecessor.
In 2012 we found two new straight allies, in Obama and Biden. I’m glad to welcome them to the club. I can only hope that 2013 brings us many, many more. It’s been said that the most effective reason to become a straight ally is to find out that someone close to you is gay. Several close friends, (and later family members), of mine came out when I was younger. I love each of them to this day, no more or less than before. Just knowing them and witnessing their thoughtfulness, generosity and kindness, helped my views to evolve. Whether they are out or not, I would bet that someone close to you is gay as well. Statistics say that, so I think my bet would be safe. I urge each of you to consider following the lead of our leaders and become a straight ally as well.
Phil Hicks, President
Metro DC Chapter, PFLAG
December 27, 2012