Moderate gays and their friends need to go forward

Back in late February, Peter Jennings suggested on ABC News that separating straight marriage from gay civil unions might be a wise compromise, giving a half a loaf to each side in the controversy. A Star Tribune reporter suggested the same to me in a phone conversation last month. Nonsense. Jerry Falwell doesn’t deserve half of Sister Boom Boom’s loaf of bread. This attitude reeks of condescension.

The gay rights movement suffers today because for too long many gays and gay-friendly people have been eager to accept half a loaf. Back in the 1970s, former Minnesota Sen. Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis, authored a Minnesota statute deliberately excluding gay marriage. At about the same time, the almost gay Metropolitan Community Church started doing “holy unions” instead of marriages for gay couples.

More recently, we see U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., opposing the gay marriages now happening in large numbers in San Francisco. Much of the gay press and many in so-called gay-rights organizations have labeled gay marriage advocates as radicals, assuming the labels of moderate or conservative gays for themselves. This divides the community against itself on the core issue of gay rights: the right to fall in love with and marry the person you choose.

In 1962 I was drafted. I admitted to the U.S. armed services that I was gay by checking a box that asked if I had “homosexual tendencies.” Since then, nearly 40 years of fighting for gay rights has taught me this: The extreme right is never appeased by compromise. Look at their yelling in Massachusetts over civil unions in late March. The extreme right really wants gays and lesbians to not exist. Compromise with them only turns friends of gays into enemies.

The fundamentalists claim they wage war on gays because gays commit hideous sins that will bring down the fire of God on the rest of the world. This argument assumes the fundamentalists themselves have no hideous sins. Hooey. These claims are simply bogus. I visualize the extreme right, rocks in hand, seeking prostitutes to stone. It was a spectacle in biblical times. It was entertainment. That is a perversion of religion for sexual fun.

Unfortunately, when mullahs preach, bashers bash and terrorists strike. That’s the perversion of religion for political ends. Neither of these perversions deserves any deference from good people, moderate gays or gay-friendly people.

If you see yourself as a gay or gay-friendly moderate or conservative, please stop shrinking back from the extreme right. These are not reasonable and holy people. Please stop appeasing them. What the gay marriage movement needs from you today is this: Please move forward and join the pro-marriage “radicals.”

Let’s look at this issue of cutting the gay rights baby in half, the so-called Solomon-like wisdom of the gay pragmatists or moderates. Solomon is the biblical guy who proposed to cut a baby in half when two different mothers were fighting over its ownership. The false mother said, “Yes, yes, cut him in half.” The real mother shrieked, “My God, no. Don’t do that, Solomon.”

Well, the birthrights of human beings are living things like babies. If you cut them up, you get mutated “things” like apartheid, Jim Crow laws, enforced segregation, Indian reservations, relocation camps, pogroms, cross burnings, lynchings and bashings. I say no to all of that. The real parents of gay rights are like Jack Baker and Mike McConnell. We say, “Hell no! Don’t cut this baby in half.”

Tim Campbell worked with Jack Baker and Mike McConnell on gay rights in the early 1970s and published the GLC Voice in Minneapolis from 1979-92. He welcomes comments at [email protected]