Monday, March 9, 2015

Strange Bedfellows

March 9, 2015

Monrovia, California

It's just a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States.  States that have hitherto resisted are toppling on the issue one after the other, and all that remains is a Supreme Court review of the decision by the stodgy 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the constitutional ban imposed by my old home state of Michigan.  It'll all be over soon, and gay couples will be able to marry everywhere in the nation.

There's one phenomenon I've noticed, which I'm sure you have as well.  It is that most, if not all, of test cases brought to court involve elderly or middle-aged lesbian couples, not gay men.  This is interesting and telling, I think.  First, we should bear in mind that most of these test cases are guided through the system with a certain amount of deliberation beforehand by the civil rights people who take on the task of suing the various governments involved.  Therefore, these are not random would-be gay marriages, but ones selected with due care to present situations most carefully calculated to elicit sympathy from the jurists who hear them,  And it works for the most part, except of course when it comes to hard heads like Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, who are as lacking in the milk of human kindness as reptiles, and are the living embodiment of Ted Knight's character Judge Smails in the movie Caddy Shack.  ("I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber.  Didn't want to do it.  I felt I owed it to them.")

It stands to reason that a heterosexual federal judge at any level (and that must account for the majority of them) is going to feel far less threatened by a couple of "spinsters" than by a male couple who look like they belong in the Village People.  Female homosexuality and male homosexuality are alike in name only.  They occupy positions at two far different points on the continuum of what most straight people consider to be the least and most outrageous forms of human sexuality.  Contrast, if you will, the idea of a couple of women, one perhaps a bit butch, snuggling on the couch, caressing and kissing, to that of a couple of sodomitic men cavorting in shocking hairy nakedness.  Never mind the reality, to the extent that it differs from those images. As for the issue of homosexual partners as parents: if one mother is good, then two mothers must be twice as good, whereas the raising of a child by a pair of prancing, priapic, wholesome can that ever be?  When people, especially men, think of lesbianism, if they're not a little, shall we say, interested, then they're at least generally not discomfited.  But when most straight folks think of gay men, they imagine nipple-pierced dudes in parades, groping men in seedy bars, boy scout leaders gone wrong, priests, sports coaches taking showers with the boys, old men in trench coats, fairies singing show tunes, and so on.  Add to that the (not erroneous) perception that men are generally more violent and prone to overt criminality than women are, and that's another reason male homosexuality is more feared than female homosexuality is.  Mind you, these are stereotypes and fortunately represent gradually disappearing images in public perception, but they count for a great deal with the old farts in robes who represent the law in its majestic equality.

Thus it is that more often than not lesbians have been chosen to carry the banner in the campaign for same-sex marriage.  Choosing one's battles in the realm of constitutional law isn't a new phenomenon.  Rosa Parks was selected by the NAACP because of her mature, studious (remember the glasses?), hard-working, nonthreatening demeanor. First, she was a woman, not a dangerous-looking guy who might rape the flower of southern womanhood up there in the front of the bus.  Second, she was plain, dignified, and prim--no smart-assed gum chewing teenage tart or flashy denizen of some sawdust-floored juke joint.  This was a deliberate calculation, and it helped to win the battle before it even began.  It wasn't a cynical decision, but a wise one.

Similarly, in the celebrated interracial marriage case, Loving v. Virginia, which is sure to be cited again soon, Richard Loving was white and his wife Mildred was black.  Had it been the other way around, one imagines that the case would never have made it beyond the rough justice of the nearest tidewater hanging tree, much less to federal court.  Again, as a test case, this was a carefully selected one.

Apart from being "homosexual," what do lesbians and gay men have in common?  Not a hell of a lot, besides their unfortunate placement by straight society under the canvas of the same freakshow tent, They appear to have no use for one another, sexually speaking.  Each side tends to use its own equipment, as it were, and never the twain shall meet.  Lesbians need gay men, as they say, like fish need bicycles.  And gay men need lesbians about as much as bicycles need, well, fish.  In terms of what turns them on, women who love women erotically have more in common with straight men when you think about it, and men who love men erotically have more in common with straight women.  But when the gay marriage ban is finally gone for good, these two diametrically divergent groups will have benefited equally by virtue of their propinquity within the same artificially-created category.

What I'm saying is that the two groups have only been thrown together by the narrowest of technical commonalities, and to the extent that they work for and root for one another they are comrades in arms.  Great.  But beyond that, what good are they to one another?   Except, of course, as compassionate human beings united in a campaign to bring more compassion to the public at large.  I guess that's enough.

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