Lawyer/activist has a message for those who continue to deny LGBT their equal rights: There is no factual or legal basis for your bigotry, and the time is past due to start treating each other with respect
Jon Nelson Special Contributor
I’m mad, sad and a little tired. Over the years, I have been involved in issues with a finite end: See a problem, organize a coalition, have open discussions and solve the problem.
Not so with equal rights for gays. We have made strides and yet, with the new Congress, there surely will be setbacks.
I just got through watching And The Band Played On, a movie about the beginnings of AIDS in the 1980s, the resistance to its recognition, the struggle for funding for research and the compelling humanity of those who were infected. And I guess it’s their stories that have caused me to think about where we are, why there is so much resistance and why, even though I am tired, I cannot stop now.
Repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act are all legislative goals to right the wrongs levied against a segment of our society.
But much of society doesn’t see it that way. They speak in terms of a “gay agenda,” “gay rights” or “pushing a lifestyle on us” that would lead to the “destruction of our family values.”
The problem for me is that most of these people aren’t evil or stupid or even mean-spirited. Many are my friends. Yet they believe in their hearts something that has a definite, negative impact on the lives of millions.
Surely that can’t be right, but why can’t they see that?
I read a story in which one Presbyterian minister eloquently denounced the homophobia which exists in many a religious doctrine, and then I read a quasi-rebuttal from another minister of the same faith. He had kindness in his heart, but his message was clear: We should love one another but not condone homosexuality.
This makes me mad, sad and tired because of the message it sends to those who so desperately need support and help: Our youth.
Somewhere in Fort Worth today, a young girl sits in a pew, next to her parents, and hears the minister proclaim that God has judged her feelings to be an abomination, and either she must change or be damned to hell — but that she is loved nevertheless. And she is so hurt and confused.
Somewhere in Fort Worth today, a young boy, egged on by his peers, with shrill voice and hyena smile, yells the word “faggot” at another boy who is confused and full of self-doubt. And the boy who uttered those words has heard his minister make similar proclamations as the girl’s minister. And that boy has heard his parents make jokes about gays and worse. And he has seen politicians and others of prominence disparage the “gay movement” as a threat to “our” society.
No wonder he acts the way he does.
As a lawyer, I am used to logic and clear argument. Take the case in California dealing with the constitutionality of the marriage ban. Let’s start with something we all can agree on and something which is the law: Before our rights can be infringed upon, the state must show some compelling interest that must be protected.
That’s the law. It’s part of our Constitution and so the state must put on evidence in court to prove that some state interest needs protecting, thus justifying the infringement of your rights or mine.
Evidence, not emotion. Facts, not fabrication.
In the California case, as in every other case which has been tried, there was none.
THERE IS NONE!
How loud do I have to say it? How many times do I have to say it?
THERE IS NONE!
How would you like to go to court and be convicted or lose a civil case even though the other side presented no credible evidence against you? There is no factual — and therefore no legal — basis to deny us the same rights as you have.
If I were a minister and, standing in the pulpit, said that God had proclaimed slavery to be the natural way of life, or that it was un-Christian for women to have the right to vote, you would throw me out — or worse. Yet that is exactly what happened in our country and in mainline church pulpits. Bible verses were used to justify inequality.
Today you think, “How could they have done that?” Or “Why would anyone believe that?” And yet, I hear the same today.
So I want to talk to you as a gay man who is watching what is happening. To the minister, the politician, the parent, to you: Your words have effects on others.
Just stop and think for a moment. Is the message you are sending hurtful to others, even though you mean well?
Fact: Every reputable medical organization in the world has long proclaimed homosexuality to be normal. Why are you ignoring that? Fact: There is absolutely no evidence that granting equal rights to gays will have any adverse effect on marriages between a man and a woman. Why are you ignoring that?
It is time for you to stop saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” It’s condescending and demeaning to me. You are judging me and shouldn’t.
Do you hear the anger in my words? It’s because I’m human and have feelings. Listen, I picked up a rifle and went to war for you, and you tell me that I am not equal to you? I can still see those dead eyes staring into space, and you tell me I can’t marry the man I love?
You’re damn right I’m mad, and you would be, too, if you were in my shoes.
So think. Think about me and you. Think about the children and the messages you are sending. As human beings, we are all connected and in this together. Let’s treat each other that way. In the meantime, I won’t give up on you.
Jon Nelson is an attorney in Fort Worth and one of the co-founders of Fairness Fort Worth.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.