Let me state flat out that I like gay people. I’ve grown up with gay people, and a good chunk of my friends are gay. Having lived a rather unconventional and at times Bohemian life embedded in “gay culture” homosexuals don’t scare me a wit. They are first and foremost people, and like people most are decent human beings while others are less so. But the ones who are complete jerks aren’t that way because they’re gay/bisexual or what have you. They’re that way because they’re just asshats.
Until the State gets out of the marriage business, as far as I’m concerned they should be able to marry or not marry whomever they want. The Law is a blunt and crude instrument which is why I would prefer our society limited it – something it has never done. Laws stay on the books long past the time when people remember why they were made in the first place. So until that time comes and we cut back the thicket of laws that threaten to choke our society, I don’t see what harm gay marriage does to our Society that heterosexual marriage hasn’t already accomplished. I grew up in the 197o’s when divorce became common, and witnessed second-hand the devastation of my friend’s lives. Sorry, no-fault divorce ruined Marriage and the American family. Gays can’t possibly harm them any worse.
But a recent debate among my liberal friends sparked by the discovery of a dissenter in their midst, got me thinking. The issue involved the Colorado case where a bakery refused to do a wedding cake for a gay couple. One of them had posted their idea of a cake done to placate the suing couple and abide by the law. Needless to say, it wasn’t something edible.
Living in Asia taught me a thing or two about people. First, whites aren’t the only group on the planet that are racist. It’s a human thing; people seem programmed to trust someone that looks and acts like them versus someone who looks or acts differently. In Korea I was refused service by cabbies and kicked out of restaurants. In Japan the Wife and I had trouble finding a landlord willing to rent to us because we were gaijin on top of the day to day stares, epithets and other rude behavior that’s visited on foreigners there. But some of the Japanese were terribly nice. I had complete strangers help me out of many jams, including a salaryman who was willing to hand me a phone card so that I could call an airline to notify them I was late for a flight. In the end while they were in the minority, the kindness shown to me by the Japanese made up for the majority of those who ignored me or treated me disrespectfully.
I didn’t patronize the restaurants where foreigners weren’t wanted. There were plenty of places that enjoyed the traffic of foreigners, so there was no reason for me to stamp my feet and insist one particular restaurant serve me. I simply too my business elsewhere. I understood that there was no way I was going to change their minds about foreigners or Americans, so I just left them alone. There were others to choose from.
And that’s what bothers me about the ruling. You can’t legislate a change of heart. There is no way you are going to make that baker respect homosexuals by threatening him with fines. Today a black man can walk into any bar he wants and the law backs him up. But there are still bars in this country where a black man would not want to go because he’s not going to be shown common courtesy. It can go the other way too; Spike Lee is getting heat for his racist attitude toward white people who are moving into his old neighborhood and changing its character, and there are hip-hop clubs where white people aren’t welcome. How would suing a red-neck bar or a hip-hop club change attitudes?
One could argue that by forcing bigots to change their actions they will over time make them see the error of their ways. To me it’s a variation of the “they don’t like us because they don’t understand us” idea, a myth that originates 500 years ago in the writings of Erasmus. Erasmus saw ignorance as the root of all evil, and knowledge as its opposite. Education held the power to enlighten the ignorant and Erasmus assumed that even the most illiterate and ignorant savage would be transformed into a humanist given the right education. History since Erasmus has been pocked with well-educated savages and bigots including Pol Pot, who attended a French electrical engineering school, Josef Stalin who attended seminary, and most recently jihadi leaders such as Osama Bin-Laden, who received a civil engineering degree in 1979, and Ayman Zawahiri who finished medical school in Cairo. The assumption that people hate out of ignorance is itself an assumption based on the feelings of cultural superiority of the group being hated.
Members of the group cannot accept that a bigot may know and understand them plenty yet still hate them, but I doubt blacks and Jews have this problem. Many of the most die-hard racists in the American South grew up with black people and were very familiar with black culture and personally knew black people, but that didn’t stop them from opposing Civil Rights or the end of Jim Crow laws. Jews lived throughout central and eastern Europe almost completely integrated into the fabric of these societies yet that did nothing to stop their neighbors from turning them over to the Nazis during the Holocaust. Perhaps it’s an expectation held only by those of privilege who find themselves suddenly in a new minority such as white men who come out gay.
Even Andrew Sullivan has come out against the ruling. “Leave the fundamentalists and bigots alone. In any marketplace in a diverse society, they will suffer economically by refusing and alienating some customers, their families and their friends.” I doubt I’ve agreed with him once since his neo-con days.
Look, I’m not saying being gay in America is easy. Having lived in gay neighborhoods and seen my gay friends suffer everything from being shunned by their families to wilding attacks, I don’t buy the common right-wing arguments that people “choose” the “gay lifestyle.” Gay people in America still suffer.
But guess what? So do women. So do Jews. So do black people. And yes, so do white men. No group holds a lock on the “victim” label, but the ones who have held it the longest succeed without employing it. The Stonewall Riots weren’t that long ago in cultural terms. What has been achieved in less than half a century is cause for gay pride, but whining to the government over a wedding cake at a time when gays are being jailed in Africa, attacked in Russia, and even areas of formerly safe cities such as London’s East End should gave American gays pause. It’s a very dangerous world out there, and becoming more so as Islam replaces liberal Christianity and Judaism in Europe. Perhaps some perspective is needed.
As Andrew Sullivan notes, gay people can make the bigots suffer simply by avoiding their businesses. Gays tend to have smaller families and often have two incomes, meaning that they have higher disposable incomes. Gays also tend to be loyal with their business, supporting those that treat them respectfully while avoiding those which don’t. Few businesses have the balance sheets that can afford cutting off an entire segment of customers, but in my view it a baker doesn’t want a gay couple’s cash, then he or she shouldn’t be forced by the government to take it.