Friday, May 8, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled knit/crochet blog to bring you this breaking news

Well, okay, so you don’t need the blog to tell you what’s been all over the national papers these past two days: on Tuesday, the Maine State House approved LD1020, and on Wednesday, in a move that had my jaw dropping (but in a really good way) Baldacci quickly signed it into law. Baldacci was quoted in more papers than I can count: "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," [he] said in a statement read in his office. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

Opposition is already gearing up a petition drive for a people’s veto, but I’m hopeful that if that comes about, the courts will do as the Iowa Supreme Court did and say, “Sorry, banning same-sex marriage is constitutionally a wash,” or, in more formal language:

“The court reaffirmed that a statute inconsistent with the Iowa constitution must be declared void even though it may be supported by strong and deep-seated traditional beliefs and popular opinion,” said a summary of the ruling issued by the court.

There are some strong correlations between this issue and what we faced with desegregation. I’ve read opinion write-ins following the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision—I grew up there—and a recurring theme was: how 7 could trump the will of 3,000,000?

Because sometimes it just has to, I guess. That may seem simplistic, but I can guarantee that many of those people who are up in arms about allowing GLBTs the same civil liberties as the rest of us do believe that race should not be a basis of restriction of rights. They will say that to discriminate against any of God’s children is not right, and will point to the behaviors of past generations of whites as heinously wrong, all the while Biblically justifying their GBLT discrimination.

Just as many whites did when it came to African-Americans. Hey, I’m mostly white, despite a few family tree veers in other ethnic directions. I grew up in an all-white community; everyone considered me white because no one knew I wasn't entirely Caucasian. I know that it can play out that way. I’ve watched it happen, and on all sorts of issues. Past battles fought are seen as right in retrospect, but God help anyone who tries to shake current beliefs.

These were the sorts of things I have discussed before, and the sorts of things I expected to continue discussing when the subject of legalization of gay marriage came up.

But I was surprised. My post-signed-into-law-excitement thoughts have been of an entirely different nature than I could have foreseen.

My friends and I were doing the long-distance celebrating of legalizing on Facebook, as Fbers will do, when one of my former play directors posed a thoughtful question. (He’s that sort of person, is L.) Why were so many straight people so involved in discussing this, when his gay friends were being pretty quiet about it? Why did it matter to us? Or more to the point, why did it matter to me, as this was my wall he was posting on.

Good question, that. I gave my reasons: 1) marginalizing any group heightens the chance of marginalization of even more people, and all on as arbitrary a basis as this marginalization (Christians wouldn’t consider themselves bound by Islamic law, after all, so why are we Christians assuming all other faiths and non-faiths should be bound some Christians’ beliefs?) and 2) legislating love, thereby impeding two persons’ desires to make a life-long commitment one to the other, is just plain wrong.

L. read this, I’ll assume, and possibly other wall posts on the subject as well. The next day, he posted this:

L. -- is wondering why people demanding tolerance, aren't very tolerant, if you see things a little different. Why so much anger?

That’s a good question, if you ask me. Because one, yes, I have been angry that it has taken us this long as a country to get it together. Seven other countries, beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, have enacted laws legalizing, not civil unions or partnerships, but same-sex marriages (see's data for more details). And we, the country that has been famous for at least paying lip-service to our democratic ideals, have done nothing, and furthermore our federal government has bowed out of this one, more than happy for once to not try to trump states’ rights. So it’s literally 50 different battles that must be fought.

The cheeky part of me, when looking at how much longer other countries have had such legislation, also dearly wants to point out that if people are poised for lightning-bolt retribution from Above, they shouldn’t worry as we’ve had a seven-country bolt buffer (and for far too many years). Chances are we’ve received the Divine all-clear, you know?

A bit snarky of me, I know. I’ll admit it. And I’m adamant about equal rights in marriage, that’s for sure. I can see why people might perceive that as angry.

And yet, the angry rhetoric of those who oppose same-sex union bothered me so badly that I was unable to stay in the room and watch the video stream of the Senate hearings that my co-workers had up. The person who was speaking is no different than I am in level of conviction, nor was he passively standing by the sidelines. He was vocal about his opinion, just as I am about mine. So, was L. right? Is there no difference between the lack of tolerance?

I hope there is. I do dislike the stand, I don’t understand why love thy neighbor can’t be more prevalent than what an apostle who didn’t even run with Jesus thought, but I hope I haven’t flashed over into the world of hate conviction. There’s a fine line between the two and we do after be careful as we walk that line. But to stand on the sidelines, would be, as Edmund Burke pointed out, allowing evil to flourish, because [we] stood by and did nothing.* They don’t see their behavior as evil, granted, but hate is the true evil in the world. It damages those who hate as much as those who are hated. And that’s sad.

I think I like how E.M. Forester put it best, though. His character, George Emerson, said that we all cast a shadow wherever we stand. The best we can do is to pick a place where we won’t do much harm, and stand in the sun for all we are worth.

He’s right. At this point in life, I just want to keep my shadow print as pale as possible. Maybe I’ll go play with sticks and strings under a tree where the light is still there, warm and brilliant, and yet softly filtered. That sounds about right, don’t you think?

Okay, next blogs will be back on-topic and about dazzlingly controversial issues such as why the Snow Zombie don't melt when frolicking in the dandelions, successfully convincing myself that summer IS the logical time to be knitting hats and mittens and crocheting warm shawls, and the utter asininity of ordering yarn for another project when I’ve already got more than enough on needles and hook. (I'll also catch up the reading and music lists. I've stumbled onto some stellar recording artists of late...)

*The quote I paraphrased was: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. However, in the course of looking it up today for accuracy’s sake, I discovered that it isn’t an actual quote at all. I ended up paraphrasing a paraphrase. And the geek in me feels duty bound to point that out. What Burke actually said in Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents was, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

I think I see why the paraphrase caught on… ;-)

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