Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goodbye, DOMA and Prop 8

Gay marriage is already legal in 13 countries, and not one of them has burned to the ground or begun persecuting straight couples. Two more countries will allow same-sex marriages starting in August, and an additional 11 are working towards it (12 if you count Wales) besides the US.

This is the world we live in.

When I was teaching US History to 5th graders last semester, the volatile topic of gun control came up. Nearly all of these kids have been raised in very conservative homes. When one little girl announced proudly that she was OK with gun control, the entire room was whipped into a frenzy, and one very sweet boy asked me, "Well, why don't all the people who believe the same things move to the same place? Like if you like guns you can move here and if you don't you can move to California."

I thought this was a brilliant response, but I've been thinking about that simple suggestion for months now. At the time, my co-teacher and I made some good points about diversity being a good thing, and he agreed that it's probably hard to move so far and not know anybody. But the real answer is so much more complicated.

Disclaimer: I'm not really about to compare LGBTQ issues to slavery, just discussing what issues do to a home. Read on.

In the Civil War, houses were divided on the issue of slavery. I remember in my own US History classes learning about brother fighting against brother and father against son. The issue was so much a part of everyone's lives all over the United States of America at the time that lines had to be drawn. People left their homes to get away from family members. Escaping the opposite point of view could mean moving hundreds of miles away.

Today, issues still hit close to home, and this particular issue causes arguments and divisions in families. Mother fights against son. Brother fights against sister. When a gay sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend comes out, there is shock, confusion, and anger, hopefully, but not always, followed by acceptance. Children come out to their parents and in their most emotionally vulnerable moment, are kicked out of their homes for their honesty.

Steinbeck said, "Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love."

I have noticed that those who tend to be most adamantly against gay marriage are those who have never had an LGBTQ sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend.

If you find yourself confused or upset by the Supreme Court decisions this morning, I would challenge you to get to know an LGBTQ in your community. Realize what they have been up against and how much the decisions announced this morning mean to them. Remember that even though you believe their relationships to be immoral, they probably don't.

Above all, empathize. Even if you can't bring yourself to love them, just try to imagine what they are going through. I'll give you a hint: their lives are hard, too. You have problems and so do they. Find common ground. Realize that your opinions are not always different.

Legislating morality didn't work in the 1920s, and it won't work today. Every person is entitled to make their own decisions, so as long as you are not hurt by them, let it go.

Welcome to the new world.