At the start of the American experiment, when the delegates from the individual states met in Philadelphia to rework the Articles of Confederation, there was a debate over power. It is not a debate that we often hear in our history classes, or read about in our textbooks, but this debate pitted the Northern States against the slave owning States of the South.
From the beginning, the South held the North hostage in the proceedings, refusing to budge unless the southern slaves were fully counted as part of a states population. This became an issue, because the South felt as though the populous North (which had dispensed of slavery by this time), would use their vast population (and the representation that such population would bring) to eliminate one of the key institutions of the Southern economy.
In the end, the delegates decided upon the 3/5ths compromise, which counted every slave as 3/5ths of a person.
Throughout the debate over the 3/5ths clause, we saw a debate over power. The South did not want its power diluted, and its society made equal. Instead, it wanted the status quo to reinforce its power pyramid of racial superiority.
Such a historical example plays quite well into our discussion of rights for LGBT people; for in American today, we see a similar struggle over who controls society. It is Christian conservatives, who wish to project their religious beliefs onto an unbelieving populous, or is it the LGBT community, who wishes to be equal to those Christians in rights and privileges.
Before I go any further, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am in no way painting all of Christianity with this brush of oppression. I know many great Christian people who agree that ones religious beliefs should remain private and not be imposed upon a religiously different populous.
Instead, this post is describing those Christians who take the scriptural commands of “dominion” far too literally, and who, instead of promoting a more perfect society, regress that society into a pseudo-theocracy.
Power is what makes the world go round. Who has it, who utilizes it, who we have power over — all of these dictate the inherent class structure of society.
Throughout American history, it can be noted that those at the top have been those who hold to a Judeo-Christian religious worldview. But, beginning in the 1960’s, with the emergence of the sexual revolution and the throwing off of traditional morality, those who were at the top of the power pyramid realized that their influence was shrinking.
Thus, in the 1970’s we saw the push-back of the Moral Majority, and the birth of the Religious Right. To these religious fundamentalists, it was important that the old systems of morality and legal legitimacy (aka. the law is from God), be upheld in the popular culture and government.
During this time, we saw Phyllis Schlafly advocate against the Equal Rights Amendment, and other influential figures like Anita Bryant advocate against the evils of homosexuality and legalized abortion (or infanticide as they deem it).
Such religious based advocacy has continued even to this day, from the establishment of marriage amendments around the United States, invasive abortion regulations, as well as the back to back Iowa wins of noted social conservatives — Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.
I feel that in order to understand why the culture war is a “war,” we must understand what those who fight against us feel that they are losing. To them, it is about Power. With LGBT people placed upon an equal playing field as them, they have lost their status as the movers of society.
Instead of society being viewed as a pyramid when it comes to LGBT rights, where heterosexuals are “better” than homosexuals, every victory for LGBT people (whether that be marriage equality, workplace protections, anti-bullying policies) alters the playing field and makes it slowly more equal.
Instead of being able to arrogantly look down upon us as “sexual deviants”, they are required to look upon us as social and legal equals.
Such equality is why our opponents fight so much against us.
That is why you have a bill being introduced in Tennessee that would allow exemptions for Christians to bully gay kids.
That is why you have a bill being passed in Michigan that strips same-sex domestic partners of benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.
And that is why you have the people of countless states voting to enshrine discrimination into their Constitutions with marriage amendments. Such manifestations of blatant hatred are the dying breaths of a movement that is afraid of losing its grip upon American culture, society, and government.
Now, as much as our community likes to say that extending our rights will not impact others, that is only half true.
Yes, my marriage to my husband does not affect the married couple next door, but at the same time, it does affect our society. Instead of the blatant homophobia that we hear from Presidential Candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, with the elevation of our rights to equal status, such homophobia no longer becomes acceptable.
In that day, the supposed “morality” of claims like “gay people are deviants” or “gay people can change, thus deserve no protections” will no longer be the norm, and instead be viewed as eerily similar to the moral justifications for treating women and African-Americans as property.
And it is that day, the day that we are social and legal equals to our heterosexual brethren, that I hope I will live to see.