19 January 2014

Beside Themselves

A friend of mine read the article I posted the other day.  She was involved in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State.  Several years before that legislation passed, she was married to her longtime partner in Canada.

This friend and I were talking about what’s happened in Utah, and about civil rights in general.  She reminded me of something which—surprisingly, given that the legislation in New York passed only two and half years ago—I had forgotten.

Here it is:  One of the arguments made against passing the same-sex marriage law was that it would discriminate against straight people, as it would not guarantee their right to marry gay people.

I wondered what it is about same-sex marriage that drives supposedly well-trained and talented legal minds to such contortions of logic as the one she recalled-- or the argument, made by same-sex marriage foes in Utah, that if diversity is a valid criterion for college admissions, it should also be a criterion in deciding whether or not people should be allowed to marry.

My friend had an explanation:  When people who don’t have much else, they will grasp onto whatever it is that (at least in their minds) separates them from people who are even lower on the socioeconomic ladder than they are.  Politicians like George Wallace, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan exploited this; folks like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are trying to do the same.  How else can they consider poor and working-class white people in the South and Midwest to vote for candidates like themselves:  the ones who align themselves with the plutocrats who imperil whatever separates those white people from the perpetually destitute blacks and other members of “minority” groups.

It sounds, to me, like a good explanation of why, in spite of the gains we’ve made, the condition of transgender people is still like that of gays and lesbians thirty years ago.