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An Olive Branch Wrapped in a Burning Rainbow Flag

In last night’s debate of the candidates for vice president, there was a disturbing moment when Joe Biden pointed out that he and Sarah Palin agreed that marriage should not be redefined to include same-sex couples. As I remember it, he extended his arm, as if he grasped an olive branch or a burning rainbow flag.

If all else fails, politicians can express bipartisanism by playing smear the queer, or in this case by steering clear of the queers as fast as they could. What disturbed me was that Biden retreated from the position he’d taken moments before. After Gwen Ifill asked the question about the rights of same-sex couples, Biden said, “In an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.” He didn’t hesitate, spoke passionately, and seemed proud to speak out.

Palin’s response was tepid at best. She said that she would not interfere with adults’ choices of partners, repeated a few times that she is “tolerant” as she made a “ewww” face. She made it clear, though, that she doesn’t support marriage equality, but didn’t explain how such a position is even remotely tolerant. She mentioned having friends who disagree with her position on these issues. Apparently she thinks it’s important for voters to know that some of her best friends are liberal and/or gay, and she tolerates them. I wonder if they tolerate her?

Ifill threw it back to Biden, asking if he supported gay marriage. He clearly stated that he and Obama do not. Then he extended his arm to Palin and said they agreed, and, flummoxed, Palin agreed that they agreed. It was a beautiful moment for anyone who does not believe in marriage equality.

Given that I’m a citizen of the United States, I should have the same rights as my fellow citizens. I realize that’s what Obama and Biden support. They’re promising that the rights would be the same once they’re elected, but they dare not call it marriage. Which means that it would be almost the same, but not entirely the same, and that’s not good enough.

It’s not that I want to be married to my partner. I don’t. But I want the right to marry him. I would refuse the right, because marriage is a flawed institution that too often celebrates inequality and abuse, but I want the opportunity to refuse it, to state that my partner’s and my relationship is too good to be labeled “marriage.” Considering it has lasted nearly 14 years, my relationship doesn’t need to be validated by society. My partner and I, as American citizens, deserve the rights that married people receive. Period. End of discussion.

Biden wants our votes, and must surely understand that we have little choice but to give him our votes, regardless of how he defines marriage. But we surely don’t deserve the discourtesy he showed us last night when he, for a brief moment, sided with his opponent, who so clearly doesn’t know that tolerant is a synonym for liberal. No wonder she doesn’t understand. Not that tolerance is enough. Acceptance is the least I will tolerate.

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10 Responses

  1. This is so perfectly stated. It is offensive that Democrats running for office won’t support gay rights in a truly meaningful way, and it is offensive that we who do support gay rights still have to vote Democrat, when what we really want is so much more liberal than what they will ever offer. I always wonder how many of them really do believe in gay rights but know they can’t admit it and still win. I know one thing: I can tolerate neither Sarah Palin nor John McCain.

  2. I have one question. If a person’s sexual orientation is something they are born with, not something that choose, then how do you explain people who only desire children? Should they also be given they same rights as the gay community? Instead those people are sent to prison. I am not trying to asking this offensively, but there are people who feel that way and claim they were born that way. How do you explain it? I believe in reality that no one truly supports the platform of people who they consider different from them. They will say what you want to hear and toss you a bone now and and again near election time, but as you saw from last night’s debate, neither party really believes it.

  3. honeycat22: Why would people who commit such crimes against minors deserve rights? What reason do you have for comparing criminals to gay people? And why would I have to explain their behavior?

    What about heterosexual male rapists whose victims are women? Studies have shown that they do not have heightened sexual desire; they are “normal” men who attack because the opportunity is there. Assuming you are heterosexual, should I ask you to explain their behavior? Or if you’re not, should we ask some straight person in your life to be a spokesperson for rapists?

    Being gay is not my “platform.” It is part of who I am. Perhaps some don’t support me but I expect the people who govern this country to do so anyway.

  4. But from what I’ve heard in prison interviews, etc. they say they can not help it. They were born with that desire. Should we not show compassion and give them treatment instead of throwing them in prison where they will be treated as less than an animal?

    You are right about male rapists, but it is rarely a crime of passion more of anger so I wouldn’t go that an orientation..

    I hear what you are saying about wanting the people who govern you to support you, but I feel the reality is that the majority of people in government do not concern themselves with the worries of everyday people until election time. Then they are going to do and say what they have to so that can be elected, then back to business as usual. Probably the best policy is to look at what they’ve done with their time in office, have they tried to improve the lives of all Americans, or only their voter base – then make a decision. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

  5. honeycat22: Of course we should show compassion, but why ask me? (There were two other questions that you failed to answer.)

    Whether rape is a crime of passion or anger, the perpetrator has a sexual orientation, which is usually hetero. So why not jump to a conclusion that heterosexual orientation determines whether or not a male will become a rapist?

    I’m aware of how things work. I think they should change.

  6. James, I was in a meeting until 11pm on Thursday, so did not see the debate. Thank you for reporting and analyzing two key moments about an issue that I care about.

    Politicians, far from speaking to us, often seem speaking down to us. They don’t trust Americans to understand complex issues, so they water them down, or they pander to what they perceive we know or want. They are often afraid to show their own complex thinking on complicated and urgent issues, because such thinking is not often quotable. Often, I feel “messaged at,” as if I’m not smart enough to read or pay attention carefully.

    I agree with Kristina that it’s hard to be a Democrat, which I am, when my chosen candidates “won’t support gay rights in a meaningful way.” Gay rights, to me, extends to all rights and all equality. There should be no levels or hierarchy of “equality.”

    James, you have the courage of your convictions, which many of our politicians do not, even the ones I vote for. And, honeycat22, who remains anonymous? I wonder if you mask yourself, because you lack courage, too. What you say seems easy, when you don’t have to identify yourself.

  7. jelizabeth,

    Just a little discourse here, not trying to be anonymous or anything else. My name is Karen, Honey was my favorite cat.

    James, I don’t know the answer to your question about rapists. What I do know is this, most people have a tendency to look down on anyone who is different from themselves no matter what that difference is. I believe that basically all politicians will say anything to get elected, but here’s the kicker. Biden could not risk offending the religious African American community and say he supports gay marriage, instead he threw out a bone to keep your vote.

    You are right, things should change where people say what they mean, but I don’t expect to see it in my life time.

  8. honeycat22: Those aren’t the questions I’m referring to. What reason do you have for comparing criminals to gay people? And why would I have to explain their behavior?

  9. That’s not what I’m doing. I just can’t understand how people are born so differently, baby #1 straight, baby #2 gay, baby #3 child molester. This is world is one strange place.

  10. honeycat22: True enough. I’d say we’ve reached our quota of honesty for today. Thanks.

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