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Views: Throwing Rice
by Mubarak Dahir
2004-03-10

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I have been amazed at the rash of gay marriage outbreaks that have been spreading throughout the country the past month.

It seems like every day there is a new town or city or county or municipality that jumps up and announces it will be the next place to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It's almost as if some places are fighting for the honor of doing so, of being recognized as the next progressive place to be.

As I write this column, Portland, Oregon, started issuing same-sex marriage licenses, and apparently quite legally, too: Oregon's marriage law says that marriage is a contract entered into by men at least 17 years of age and by women at least 17 years of age. It doesn't specify that the marriage has to be between a man and a woman.

I wouldn't be surprised if other places have started giving out the much-sought-after slips of paper by the time this column sees print. Who knows how many cities will be doing it in another week, another month, another year.

Even where licenses haven't been issued, gay and lesbian couples have been showing up at clerk's offices demanding the right to walk down the aisle together. While these couples may not have walked away with the government's seal of approval yet, they have started in motion a national clamor about a simple and basic right that has been denied us way too long.

The whole thing has been thrilling to watch.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this new wave of 'love activism' is that it has been aided and abetted by straight allies who understand that this is about more than that little certified piece of paper, or even all the legal benefits it brings.

It's about the recognition that our love is just as valid, just as real, just as much worth celebrating as anyone else's.

That's why I remain stunned and disheartened when I hear gay and lesbian people themselves disparaging these valiant acts of marital civil disobedience. I'm sorry to say, the voices against marriage from within our own community are louder and more frequent than I would ever have imagined.

The refrain I seem to be hearing from the naysayers is that the rash of love breaking out across the country is a bad thing because it might engender a 'backlash' against us.

To me, that argument seems like the classic example of gay people so desperately wanting to be 'accepted' by straight people, that they will be willing to do anything to assimilate: watch football, wear lipstick, hide their rainbow flags, and just generally be good boys and girls so they will be invited to the big party of heterosexual approval.

They will tell you that Middle America—whoever that is—is not ready for gay and lesbian marriages. They will tell you that we are doing ourselves more harm than good. They will tell you we are shocking the country and thus jump-starting a movement by the conservative right that can't be held back, a fight we are bound to lose.

But what they will tell you is hogwash.

Whether we like it or not, being gay and lesbian in America today is political. We have no choice in that.

What we have a choice in is how we act on it—or how we fail to act on it.

The conservative right is already mobilized against us. Standing down and refusing to take on the fight won't get us anywhere. Pat Buchanan was correct when he said there is a culture war going on in America. We can choose to take part in winning that culture war, or we can sit back and ignore it and pretend it isn't here and hope that if we are good little boys and girls everything will be fine.

If we don't ask for marriage, will the right-wingers stop bullying gay children? Will they stop trying to 'cure' us? Will they all of a sudden stop discriminating against us in our jobs? Will they take us back in as their family members, and let us join the armed forces and welcome us into their churches?

No, because these are the people who have already decided we are sinners and perverts.

As for 'Middle America'—well they might not be 'ready' for gay and lesbian marriages now. But without a little bit of a push, they never will be.

In fact, the outbreak of gay marriages is likely to help 'Middle America' come to terms with the idea of gay marriages. After all, what we're asking for is hardly radical. Thirty years ago, many of the mom's and pop's who are watching gay and lesbian couples line up to get hitched were fighting for the social right to not get married. Funny, isn't it, how the notion of what is radical changes with time.

But even if the straight people watching the news in their livingroom never let their hair grow long or never smoked a joint or never went to Woodstock, they can understand why marriage is so important to us—it is something equally important to most of them.

We shouldn't be afraid of taking on the challenge of showing 'Middle America' how much it means to us to be allowed to legally love one another. After all, if we don't invite them to the wedding, how can we expect them to attend. You might be surprised just how many of them end up throwing rice.


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