Straight, not narrow

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October 26, 2009 by 8junebugs

I saw Milk this weekend.

I don’t know why I waited. I remember thinking it was one of those movies that didn’t really require the Big Screen to have an impact on me.

(Unlike Harry Potter and the Star Wars prequels. Those needed the biggest screen possible. Quidditch and lightsabres!)

It does deserve a Big Audience…although it just isn’t the kind of film that changes people’s minds about something as scary as The Gay. (I don’t know what kind of film would. Brokeback Mountain certainly didn’t.)

Me? I’m the choir on this issue. I cried at the end, but not because Milk and Moscone got shot. I cried because it’s been 30 years since that happened — enough time for a whole generation to grow up scared and unsure, facing prejudice and being told there’s something wrong with them. (Not everyone…but one is too many.)

Thirty years after Harvey Milk, we have made only the most incremental movement toward equal rights for all of our citizens, regardless of whom they love.

And every day, legislators across the country are fighting to deny Americans their civil rights…or deny their existence at all (really, Marion Barry?). Every day, people who, for the most part, say they worship a god who says “love thy neighbor” also say they don’t believe the LGBT community deserves to have legally supported families (regardless of a legally binding Power Of Attorney, in this case).

Thirty years later, I have a dear friend who is still fighting in his state, day in and day out, just to have the same rights that I have, and I’m not even the most privileged in our society. (I’m close, but I lack the…basic equipment.) It is nonsensical that I could legally marry the wrong guy and he can’t legally marry the right one.

Unless he moves. But he does seem to love his state. 🙂

I’m so proud of his fight and the effect he’s had, the alliances he’s made over the last 10 years. More than that, though, I’m in awe of his grace in the face of so much hatred, still…30 years after Harvey Milk fought to show us that we all know, and probably love, someone who’s gay and has been afraid or unable to tell us.

***

Eleven years ago, Matthew Shepard was beaten and killed for being gay. He was “taught a lesson.” It’s taken the U.S. government this long to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in his name, adding “actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability” to the 1969 law that increases sentences for crimes committed on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sex.”

And 28 elected officials opposed it. The most frequently voiced worry is that a law like this will silence pastors and others who preach against The Gay. For the record, this bill, which will be signed into law, will not prevent anyone from thinking anything about anyone else.

It will punish them a little harder for beating people up based on those opinions, though. This law will further define — for those who cannot make the distinction — the basic law that no one has the right to hurt someone else, even if that someone else is “other.”

Why do we need this kind of law? Because 11 years after Matthew Shepard, and 30 years after Harvey Milk, people still get beat up for being gay. I would love to live in a world where this law isn’t necessary, but right now? In the land of the free and home of the brave? We need it. And I’ll consider myself lucky to live to see the day when we don’t.

Conservative pastors and others advocating against The Gay (as if they’re recruiting?), you have the right to believe whatever you believe for whatever reasons you name. And I have the right to believe that people are beautiful, just as they are, until hate — not love — makes them ugly.

So, LGBT community, let me welcome you to federal “protected class” status. I’m really sorry you deserve it, but I’m glad you’ve got it.

I think Harvey would be, too.

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