For gays across the country, the argument of gay rights is obvious. As Stephen Workman of San Francisco and of Utah County puts it, “The question is simple, either you believe all were created equal in the sight of God or you do not.”
And for many on the other side of the argument, those who are not gay and are against gay rights, it is about the “choice” of gay “lifestyle.” Frank Blocker, a New Yorker originally from Oklahoma, lost his partner seven months ago and his pain is still fresh. On gay rights, he says, “There can be no true agreement until it is generally accepted that God made us this way. I know many straight people think it’s a choice. I know of no gay person who agrees.”
Discrimination is rampant, not just where marriage is concerned or just where so called “civil unions” are written into the law. Blocker’s partner died as a result of a battle with sickness.
After the death, Blocker went to the Surrogate Court to settle his estate. The clerk asked who he was, and he stated that he was the registered partner of the deceased. Said the Clerk, “Then, you’re nobody.” The funeral home had put Blocker in line to pay expenses, and even an autopsy could not be performed without Blocker’s OK. But as far as the Surrogate Court was concerned, he “had no rights at all.” It took three months to order the banks to release the funds. Then the bank’s “policy” refused, and it was back to the courts for an order. He was considered neither relative nor spouse, though these were the same people who had told him to go to the surrogate court three months before. Blocker clarifies, “But do not confuse that example by thinking that the desire most people have for marriage, at least in the gay world, is about money or settlement issues but simply the basic human respect of being recognized, not to be considered ‘less than.'”
Dana Swindle, MA from Washington State, who happens to be gay, is very concerned about the rights that go with marriage as an institution by law. “The biggest differences,” she says, “include the rights to property and of children. When I die, my third cousin twice removed will have claim to my belongings before my partner of 25 years. My partner and I have two children, a choice we made together. And after loving them and providing for them since birth, should my partner die, their uncle that they have never met could easily sweep in and legally take them, as I am not the biological mother.” When Swindle moved to Utah, she had trouble enrolling her son into pubic school, and the family was troubled greatly by the discrimination. According to the state, “In Utah as a same sex parent, I would never have any rights. My son missed over a month worth of school while the district court processed this paperwork. He was punished for my lifestyle, and the intolerance of the homogenous population.”
The gay community around the country echoes this sentiment. It’s about being treated as equals and not as second-class citizens.
Workman is a painter studying at the famous San Francisco Art School. “Civil unions only deepen the wound because we are saying that it’s basically the same, but in the minds of everyone marriage will always be seen as superior,” he said. “It’s a question of ethics, as long as one group feels slightly superior to another, the ‘lesser’ group will always suffer in kind.”
He likens the gay rights sentiment to that of the early civil rights movement, when Blacks were told they were equal, but still had to use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains-the “Jim Crow” laws that were enforced by States’ Rights.
“As long as separation laws exist, minority groups will continue to suffer at the hands of the majority group and the problems will only worsen,” Workman said.
There are many gay stereotypes as well as laws on the books that treat them as inferiors, which they would all like to see banished from culture. “Our country still hasn’t gotten its head out of the sand of the 50’s when gay men were portrayed as slimy pedophiles after young men,” Workman said.
Steve continued saying that pedophilia and bestiality stereotypes about gays are the most hurtful, damaging and untrue, though the idea that gay men typically act feminine is also annoying.
“Femininity does not classify someone as gay nor does butch masculine behavior classify them as straight,” Workman said.
Gays are also tired of hearing about how they supposedly want your children. “We can make our own,” Blocker said. “We’re not after yours.”
But more seriously, the use of the word “gay” as a derogatory term makes him sick when he thinks of all the victims of brutal hate crimes, those who have died of AIDS in hate-filled environments, and the broken- hearted people turned away from churches because of their homosexuality. But Blocker said he’s working on popularizing his own derogatory terminology. “Whenever I see someone being overtly selfish or showing a total disregard for the needs of those around them, I smile and say, “How very white of you.'”
The outcome of Prop 8 has dampened the spirits of American gays, but many are still optimistic. “As it stands, a little over half of Americans have dictated who I am allowed to love, how I will define my relationship and who I can call my family,” Swindle laments. “I have hope though. Until 1946, marriage was defined by race. It will come.”