The problem with gay rights is there is no way to seek them - and there’s certainly no way to deny them - without getting personal.
You’re not talking about abstract but important things like zoning laws or tort reform, you’re talking about something profound and deeply private – you’re talking about your own heart, you’re talking about you.
There are forces out there that believe my 14 year relationship with my partner is massively destabilizing to the United States, to the point that America will soon resemble totalitarian states like North Korea.
It was the states top Catholic, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who used that ridiculous analogy last week, believe it or not. Thanks to the gays agitating for legal equality America would soon become like communist North Korea, Dolan wrote, where “government presumes daily to ‘redefine’ rights, relationships, values, and natural law.”
Natural law? Where does the Archbishop think gay people come from if not nature? Here’s a question I’d like the Archbishop to answer: why would God condemn what He has in fact created? If God doesn’t like gay people forming relationships then shouldn’t He really blame Himself - and heterosexuals - for making so many of them?
I suspect these ‘natural law’ quotes are just code words to sugarcoat what the Archbishop is really up to: creating two tiers of human being, the natural and the unnatural. That’s a very dangerous game to be playing, and I rather wish he’d stop.
Because I don’t know about you but I really don’t appreciate being compared to a foul regime that has set protestors alight in public stadiums, and I have to wonder at a man of God who makes this comparison so lightly. Doesn’t the Archbishop know that condemnation fosters contempt?
As more and more people are discovering, talking about your gay son or daughter, your gay nephew or niece, in that kind of overheated language robs them of their personhood, it reduces them to an unfortunate conundrum, it argues against their full expression as people, and it seems profoundly anti-family to me.
That’s why marriage equality passed in Albany this week – because there is no legal justification for denying gay couples the rights that heterosexual couples take for granted. Personal or religious animosity isn’t sufficient grounds. And besides, gay couples are pressing for legal unions, not religious ones, and that is why they have and will ultimately prevail. We’re not looking for your approval; we’re looking for our own rights.
The assembly members in Albany understood that important distinction this weekend and they voted accordingly. Today it’s New York; tomorrow it will be the nation.
But like I said, you move very quickly from the political to the personal when you talk about marriage, gay or straight. If gays had full legal equality they wouldn’t have to have this discussion. I would like not to have this discussion. I am about as private a person as you could ever meet. I didn’t ask, nor would I seek, a platform for my private life. No one means for their life to become an illustration, something that you can stand on one side or the other of. Who would volunteer for that if the alternative were a life free from insult and injury?
Meanwhile the bill for New York was only approved on Friday evening and already I’ve been inundated with questions about when my partner and I will get hitched (a photographer friend has even volunteered to take the photos on the big day for free as a wedding gift).
I haven’t been able to answer their requests because I was completely taken off guard by the bills sudden success. Let’s face it if you’re born Irish you spend most of your life bracing for impact; if you’re born Irish and gay you spend your life anticipating impact and the next full on assault. Being gay is not a job for sissies.
This weekend I saw and felt the euphoria when the bill was passed. I was moved by the celebrations that took place outside the historic Stonewall Inn in the west village. And as I watched all the tears and the laughter I remembered my shaky teenage self, moving cautiously through the late 1980’s in Ireland. At that time it was considered so unthinkable to be gay that you could actually hide in plain sight. People would pretend they were not seeing what they were seeing. Unwed mothers, abortions, abuse, neglect, gay sons and daughters. It wasn’t happening. The whole of Ireland was a massive confidence trick. At that time being gay was considered so impossible that no one would even dare accuse you of it.
Back then it was my unexpected little gay story versus the babies and weddings and GAA narrative of my tribe. I didn’t stand a chance. It was not that they were hostile to me exactly; they just didn’t have room for me in the story. And the Irish are all about stories. Growing up in Ireland showed me you can become trapped in stories, your own or your nations, Ireland taught me that stories can be snares.
So these days I have a profound respect for anyone who tries to get a word in, particularly if powerful forces have prevented from doing so in the past. It takes guts of a kind rarely seen to clear your throat and stand up for yourself at the best of times, but it’s doubly so when almost everyone would prefer to shut you up. So, irate commentators, do your worst. If you can’t bear to hear gay people talk about their ongoing plight then either help them win their full equality or get out of their way.