Friday, July 9, 2010

Another maybe not so small step

“Judge topples U.S. rejection of Gay Unions” reads The New York Times this morning.

There was a time when news like this would bring to the lips and tongue words like joy and thrill and to the feet the desire to dance. Today, the news that a federal court has struck a blow against the Defense of Marriage Act makes me smile, but the urge to jump up and down is no longer there. Probably because there have been so many fits and starts, so many occasions of one step forward, two steps backward, and a wait and see attitude now seems to be a more sensible response.

But for those who can, this should be celebrated with song and dance. This is a big victory. This is recognition at the federal level that this injustice cloaked in religion is based on irrational fear of difference, and not on anything you might want to base a social order on. America needs to put that right. And it will, in time.

As this plays out on the right coast, in Massachusetts, on the left coast, the crowds are standing outside the Federal Building in San Francisco, I understand, in anticipation that Judge Walker will announce his decision on the Proposition 8 challenge. Some people are not happy to get their news via Google. They want to be in the plaza in front of the courthouse in person. Good for them. This is a community event. It should be experienced communally.

I’m outside the United States for the time being. Different things register. I just finished the endless saga of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. Pure delightful escape (OK, maybe the first 1500 pages were, anyway). There’s a scene in which somebody – I believe it’s a policeman – is talking about a suspicious character and somebody remarks “I hope you’re not trying to say his being gay has anything to do with it – that’s illegal!” A very small line, totally outside the plot of the story, but one which registered with me.

It also registered with me that when I asked at the Holocaust Memorial where the gay memorial was, the woman dashed in and came back with a brochure. Right over there, she said, happy to be helpful, pointing across the street. Which is right across the street from the American Embassy, too, by the way. Americans working there look out on one side at the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the French Embassy (with the British and Russian Embassies also a stone’s throw away) and on the other side at both the holocaust memorial and the gay memorial. Daily reminders of history, power and injustice, and the need to put things right.

These facts help one take the long view. Opponents of gay civil rights are going to continue to shout “judicial activism,” a term which has turned out to be absent of any real meaning other than that the American wheels of justice are not giving me what I want at the moment.

But we’re getting there. We’re getting there.

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