Opponents of same-sex marriage, [Scalia] said, are not monsters. Surely he’s right: many opponents of same-sex marriage are perfectly nice people who love their kids, donate to charity and don’t kick puppies for sport. The same was true of many segregationists and others who have been on the wrong side of history. One can simultaneously not be a monster but also hold entirely awful views. When it comes to issues like equal rights, the story is in fact black and white: if you want to exclude your neighbor from exercising a right as fundamental as marrying the person they love simply because that person is the same sex, you aren’t Hitler, but you’re most certainly a bigot. The public is increasingly recognizing that tradition and religion simply aren’t good arguments for infringing on the rights of a minority group.
Homosexuality is seen as the complete antithesis of all that is traditional or natural, with the homosexual “lifestyle” and such “behaviours” supposedly making a mockery of fundamental, sacred biblical teachings. Anti-gay activism largely focuses on the otherness of homosexuality to protest against the increasing recognition for the LGBT community. Depicting homosexual “behaviours” and the “homosexual lifestyle” ‘as only about deviant and immoral sexual behavior’ enables the maintenance of homosexuality as ‘always wrong’ (Loftus in Micele 601). Herman concurs with this idea, whereby homosexuals ‘are placed among “evil people” (…) propagating a cosmology constructing homosexuality as one element in a semiotic chain signifying “moral decline”’ (in Adam 264).
Homophobia and the American Jeremiad
I was extremely excited (if not a tad nervous) about yesterday’s marriage equality decisions from the United States Supreme Court. I had just come off my lunch at work, sneaking looks at my phone when the decision came through. (I will write a blog post about my fascination and love of all things America at a later date.) Irrespective of your opinion on the country, it cannot be doubted that America’s role and influence is unmatched in the Western world. If America does not recognise its gay and lesbian citizens, why would any other nation ever consider doing so?
At the time of the original Prop 8 court case in 2010, I remember feeling so ecstatic that we had finally won something concrete. Legal protections that couldn’t be taken away – or so we thought. The decision’s reversal only heightened my belief in society’s opinion of homosexuality as an “other” that should never be afforded the same status as heterosexuality within law. For someone who at that time was only just coming to terms with their own homosexuality, the reversal was more than disappointing – it was personal. California: Counterculture, liberal arts, San Francisco, Haight Ashbury, LSD. California: Bigotry, discrimination, scaremongering.
Then there was DOMA. There I was, so naïve in my thoughts that such legislation could never exist. Why would it? Why can’t we all just get along?
There is an extra special place is my heart for Edith Windsor. Sometimes people’s “coming out” stories just resonate with you in a way that cannot be replicated. Windsor moved to New York after her marriage broke down, finding herself envious of the ”out” lesbians in Greenwich Village. She met Spyer, they were together for 40 years before they were married in 2007 in Canada. Two years later, Thea passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Edith was diagnosed with “broken heart syndrome” after a heart attack. Then, as if losing the person most dear to her wasn’t punishment enough, the IRS issued Windsor with a $363,000 tax bill – simply because she was married to a woman. Windsor took the decision to sue the United States government because DOMA was both unconstitutional, and a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Windsor vs. United States was never a simple fight for a tax rebate. It will forever be remembered as one of the most selfless acts committed by woman in the United States.
DOMA was so much more than words on a page. It was the denial of more than a thousand benefits to same-sex couples. It was 40 years and more. It was a stigma, a pigeonhole, a continuation of the belief in difference.
At 84, some would describe “Edie” – as she is affectionately known – as the “perfect” plaintiff. Gone are the youthful stereotypes surrounding “confusion” and “phases” – Windsor’s relationship with Spyer, spanning more than 40 years, ensures the validity of the phenomenon that is love, and its availability to all regardless of race, creed, colour, religion and mostly importantly, sexual orientation. The unquestionable certainty with which Windsor and Spyer loved one another cannot be denied, and should not be disparaged. (I would be immensely interested to hear SCOTUS’s decision had the plaintiff been 23/24.)
The Guardian today described Windsor as an “unlikely hero”. I would describe her as a perfect hero. I cannot think of a better person to have represented me in front of the United States Supreme Court.
Thank you, Edith Windsor.
My name is Coral and I am a 23 year old American Studies graduate (Class of 2013) from Manchester. I am currently in limbo with regards to “what I want to do with my life”. I have a special interest in academic writing, coupled with human rights law (especially gay rights) and, of course, American Studies. “American Studies? What’s that?” I hear you ask. In a nutshell: an all-encompassing, multi-disciplinary subject / umbrella term for anything remotely “American”. My degree focused on the cultural side (which is where my interests lie) and my dissertation, entitled “Homophobia and the American Jeremiad” discussed America’s anti-gay Christian Right.
Whilst plotting my next moves (an American Studies MA? A law conversion course?), I aim to (on the advice of another, I hasten to add!) document my musings on the things that are important to me here. My favourite topics of discussion are the previously discussed gay rights, human rights, the Christian Right (religion and sexuality), law, politics and social inequality. I may add a bit of architecture, photography and music in for good measure, and to lighten the mood once in a while – we’ll see what happens.