Monday, June 8, 2009

Seeds of hope for gays, lesbians

I'd love to know back in the '60s when that delicious sense of inevitability set in — that sense that, though struggles would remain, right was winning and Jim Crow was toast.

It might have been like last week with these revelations: Both Dick Cheney and Ted Olson came out for same-sex marriage.

That was just a few days after lawmakers in New York (pending Senate approval) and New Hampshire (needs House approval) voted to become the sixth and seventh states to legalize same-sex marriage.

Yes, those votes came just about the same time California's Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. So, you might say, aren't we just talking a political stalemate?

One could have said as much in the early '60s when some states were fighting desegregation with all their might.

They were losing.

When Ted Olson not only steps to the microphone for same-sex marriage but goes to court for it, it's a sign of victory on the horizon. Yes, human rights for human beings who happen to be homosexual.

It was man-bites-schnauzer news the other day when Olson joined the legal fight against California's prohibition.

Olson was solicitor general under George W. Bush. Before that he argued the case in court for Bush's tainted 2000 victory.

In joining the class-action suit, Olson shared the dais with David Boies, his legal rival who made Al Gore's case in the 2000 drama.

Olson's reason for taking this stand? "Creating a second class of citizens is discrimination, plain and simple."

Second-class: in how such issues as joint property and health coverage are handled. Second-class: regarding tax incentives for people to marry.

We don't need one of the nation's foremost Republican lawyers to call it discrimination, but it sure gets your attention.

As for Cheney, he already had shown himself "soft" on these human rights. We all know why. His daughter is a lesbian with a same-sex partner. Last week he went from soft to solid when he said, "People ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish."

Cheney has succumbed to something, call it an inconvenience, that some of his ideological brethren seek to avoid: eye contact. Once you know gay people, and know that what distinguishes them can't be spread through the air or by hand contact and that it isn't an illness anyway, you realize that their 21st Century Jim Crow treatment is both wrong and wrongheaded.

Opponents of gay marriage skillfully have posed this matter as an assault on marriage. How so? This is pro-marriage. This is pro-monogamy. It's the age of AIDS. Isn't monogamy a life-of-death matter?You can defend same-sex marriage on public health grounds alone.

Clearly it remains a political loser in many states. So was race-mixing, depending on one's latitude and wrong-itude in the '60s.

But it's one thing for the California Supreme Court to rule that voters said what they meant in banning gay marriage. It's another to argue that a popularly supported ban doesn't violate equal protection of the law, Olson and Boies seek to prove it does before the U.S. Supreme Court.

When — not if — justice triumphs over this form of discrimination, Texas will have played an inadvertent role.

Olson pointed out that the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling overturning Texas' sodomy law provides a king-sized lily pad for hopping across the pond of popularly mandated discrimination to the solid ground of equality.

This time, when Ted Olson says it, I believe it.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

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