One of the examples they give is of an anti-marriage advocate who was content in her role as mother and housekeeper until she heard that the Massachusetts courts were legalizing gay marriage. She lives in Maryland. One wouldn't think that the legalization of gay marriage in a non-adjoining state would cause one to spring into action, but for her it did. It's been a long time since Paul Revere's cry of "The British are coming, the British are coming" and maybe Americans are starving for a new call to action, but I don't see as "The gays will be allowed to marry in a state several hundred miles to the north, the gays will be allowed to marry in a state several hundred miles to the north" as quite so urgent, even if it was delivered by a guy on horseback.
She didn't exactly go get her musket and look for redcoats (or queers) to shoot. Instead she got into her car and drove to Annapolis where she proceeded to testify against a bill before the Legislature that would allow domestic partners in Maryland the right to make medical decisions for one another. She claimed that she was worried this would open the door to gay marriage.
Now I don't know about you, but I think someone who drives a few hours to try and make sure that the terminally ill and critically injured won't have their decisions made by the people they love the most has something seriously wrong with her. On the way back did she stop by a home for the blind and re-arrange the furniture? Does she have a closet full of sugary snacks confiscated from infants? What would possibly possess somebody to expend that much time and energy to deny someone else from having what they want?
Some answer homophobia and leave it at that. There's definitely something to that. Back in what southerners still consider the good old days of segregation whites and blacks weren't allowed to marry on the grounds of other people didn't want them to. That was pure racism. I think there's other things at play. Two things, to be specific.
One is just plain boredom and loneliness. If you haven't noticed most of the anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage people aren't exactly the cream of the crop. Oh sure they have some educated attractive spokespeople, but if you look at a protest you'll see an awful lot of mullets and very few class rings. I think a lot of them get into it for the same reasons that people get into liberal causes, minus the opportunities to take home loose women. They want a group of like minded people to spend time with, who will respect and value them and their opinions, and who will fulfill their social needs. We used to have bowling leagues and rotary clubs. Now we have mega churches and anti-gay organizations. Maybe we should bring back bowling.
The other reason is that a lot of people feel disconnected from the current political process. They feel like their votes don't count, their voices aren't being heard, and they're just little drone ants in a great big anthill. They're right. Since they can't get the things that would really help them enacted, things like health coverage or wage reform*, they look for some cause to glom on to that has a chance of passing. Anti-marriage amendments can get passed because they're largely symbolic. Most states aren't in any danger of enacting civil rights for gays any more than most Southern states were in danger of enacting civil rights for blacks back in the '50s.
Getting these regressive symbolic laws passed makes these people feel important. They may not be able to make themselves economically or politically relevant, but they can kick the damn gays around, yessiree. It's the typical pattern, boss yells at man, man yells at wife, wife yells at brother, brother yells at sister, sister kicks dog, dog bites cat. Pass the pain and humiliation on down the line from strongest to weakest. The rich squeeze the middle class, the middle class squeeze the poor, and the poor and uneducated lash out against the homosexuals. That's the basic line. Homosexuals are inviting targets. In the media they are portrayed as the wave of the future, educated men with sterling hygiene, good careers, and nice things. In a world where women earn more college degrees than men and manual labor has less and less value the straight man feels threatened and wants to lash out. He goes after those he feels threatened by, the women who will eventually out pace him in the job market (He can get them by forcing them to have children, thus impeding their careers. Hello anti-abortion federation. How you doing?) The gays who seem more fit for a modern society. The elite liberals like me who out pace even the women in academic performance.
The women who work alongside the men who run these movements are their daughters and wives, wrapped up in the same social classes and lifestyles. They're bludgeoned by religion and tension at home. They're the wives the husband yells at who then channel their anger out against the weak and powerless.
So what's the solution? We need to figure out a way to integrate these people back into society. Make them a little less alienated and alone. They may be the majority now and wield the power, but they know that won't last. They can see the writing on the wall, that the next millennium belongs to thinkers and talkers, not brute force. This may also be why they like war. East Coast pussies can't fight as well as they can.
I don't know what the solution to this is, but as a culture we need to understand that just because you're frustrated doesn't mean that you get to pick on those who are weaker or less numerous than you. We need to stand up to these bullies and tell them that they don't get to take out their frustrations by impeding the progress of civil rights. We need more outrage and we need to pass laws in the relevant states granting benefits to our fellow citizens not on the color of their skin or who they choose to love, but based on the fact that they are human and deserve the same rights we do.
Anti-marriage amendments aren't really about fear of man on man loving so hot that it will set honeymoon suites on fire and expedite global warming. iconoclast and his giant pocket rocket aren't even engaged. They're about power, and the anger of the powerless. We need to figure out how to channel that rage into progressive social goods that will fight back against those who seek to increase inequity and consolidate capital ownership in an economic aristocracy. We need to teach people that just because George Bush pays lip service to Jesus doesn't mean he's on your side. George Bush has two constituencies he cares about. The rich, and the richer. We have a lot of work ahead of us to turn this hate into something productive.
Let's not waste anymore time.
*I know that most marriage opponents say they don't support those things. That's because of the way the debate is phrased and the American propaganda movement. In polls phrased with more neutral language (eschewing party platforms and the dirty word liberal) many more people admit that they would like to be able to afford to eat somewhere besides McDonald's on occasion, and hey it wouldn't hurt if they could have that back surgery they've needed for four years now.