As the community and its allies celebrate another hard-fought victory this week — same-sex marriage in D.C. — wolves circle nearby, waiting for a chance to pounce.
Tuesday was the first day lesbian and gay couples could pick up their marriage licenses and finally get married. Ceremonies were held all over the city, from the headquarters of Human Rights Campaign to churches, synagogues and judge’s chambers throughout Washington. On the same day, the city commission of conservative Kissimmee, Fla., afforded LGBT employees a measure of equality by approving domestic partnership benefits for these workers.
The U.S. Supreme Court also agreed to hear the case against the Westboro Church for picketing funerals of soldiers. The suit was filed by the family of U.S. Marine Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq four years ago. Snyder’s funeral service was interrupted by the church’s leader, Fred Phelps, and a handful of followers who brandished signs saying “America is doomed,” “Matt in hell” and “Semper Fi fags,” the very same treatment regularly heaped upon the LGBT community at Pride parades, demonstrations and other major events. The Snyder family is arguing that Phelps intruded on a private event and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, initially winning an award of $5 million. The award was overturned on appeal, where a court ruled that protestors were simply exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. The high court will resolve the matter.
But disputes need not reach the Supreme Court to make news in Washington.
Last week, the Washington Post featured a photograph of one of the first gay couples to get a marriage license. For the historic day, the editors deemed appropriate for the front page a picture of two men kissing. However, the paper’s ombudsman reported Wednesday that the paper received a number of angry, spiteful and bigoted complaints and that 27 subscribers canceled their subscriptions due to the photo. Nonetheless, the editors stand by their decision.
Over the weekend, a bloodthirsty member of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s pack was exposed by his impatience to get at LGBTs. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia’s public colleges and universities urging them to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
And on Monday, a Roman Catholic school in Colorado kicked out one of its preschoolers because the child’s parents happen to be two women. The child has also been denied re-enrollment in kindergarten next year.
The reality is that as we continue our march to full equality, these wolves will stalk and hunt us. We must be constantly vigilant lest they detect an opening, disrupt our progress and set us back. Same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C., for instance can easily be overturned by a referendum or interfered with by members of Congress.
Moreover, some of these predators lurk among us. One of them is California State Sen. Roy Ashburn. Ashburn had been in the closet and is the attack dog of religious conservatives and other homophobes and bigots. He lobbied hard against his fellow gays, consistently voting against pro-LGBT measures. It took a DUI arrest last week and the revelation that he had just left a gay bar with another man before the hypocrite was ferreted out.
However, there are ways we can keep the wolves at bay. After outrage and protest over his lackey’s letter mandating LGBT discrimination, McDonnell issued a directive to all Virginia state employees Wednesday saying they should not discriminate for any reason, including on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the religious conservative who famously wrote in his manifesto for good governance that government policy should favor married heterosexual couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators,” was silent on the matter of discrimination based on gender identity.
Then there are moments when even people we might not ordinarily consider friends come to our defense out of the sheer lunacy of actions taken by some people and organizations.
Conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly came to the defense of the Colorado family whose child was expelled. During his television show, O’Reilly opened a segment saying, “Authorities at the Sacred Heart of Jesus School expelled a preschool and kindergartner because their parents are lesbians. As a Roman Catholic myself, that seems to be a bit harsh, and I don’t know if Jesus would have made the same call. Kids have no power over who their parents are.”
Moments like that are encouraging. And it’s great to see celebrations continue in the District and all over the country as we win our rightful place in society one step at a time. However, we need to be on the lookout for the wolves that are stalking us.
You can follow Erwin on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon