Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Progress on Gay Rights

Over the past few months, there has been an enormous amount of movement on the rights of same gender-couples to get married. We all know about California and the voter decision to support Prop 8. There was also, in November, legislation in Florida and Arizona that put various restrictions on same gender families. But then, this week alone, Iowa courts and Vermont legislature made same-gender marriage a reality in those states. The District of Columbia is taking similar action. On a national level, there has been increased discussion about letting civil unions be the rule of the land for all people, and marriages be the acts of churches - a compromise that for many seems to have merit.

At the same time, in Iraq, (see NYTimes article: there is a backlash in some of the more conservative regions against gay men. As quoted from the article: "Clerics in Sadr City have urged followers to help root out homosexuality in Iraqi society, and the police have begun their own crackdown on gay men. 'Homosexuality is against the law,' said Lt. Muthana Shaad, at a police station in the Karada district, a neighborhood that has become popular with gay men. 'And it’s disgusting.' For the past four months, he said, officers have been engaged in a 'campaign to clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.'”

All progress has elements of violent reactivity. No doubt that there is a rapid change in the expansion of gay rights, but we can expect an increase in reactivity as well, unfortunately. It always seems to be a part of the struggle.

I think it is important that we as Friends and Friend-communities look to see what we can do to support the movement. Paradoxically, I do not think that what we should do is create a litmus test for gay marriage. I just don't think society as a whole is there yet. But I think we can create allies for gay marriage among those whom are not yet there, but who are repulsed by people such as Fred Phelps (see, and by the attitudes of Lt. Shaad as quoted in the Times. Patience and perseverance will get us there, with a dash of faith. We know that opponents to gay marriage are gearing up, and their tactic is going to be to divide, and let gay marriage be the dividing issue. If we react along these lines, rather than continue to reach across these lines to those who are not at the far extreme but just on other side of the line, we will do more harm than good. To react divisively plays right into the "us vs. them" game. I, for one, will continue to look to expand who the "us" is rather than focus on "them".

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