A Challenge to New York’s Liberals

Let’s call her Liberal Lady. She isn’t quite aware of it, but in her own way, she’s an enemy of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Liberal Lady marched for civil rights and against fighting in Vietnam. She raised her kids in the West Village and walked them to school past the drug pushers on my block. She helped women gain access to abortion clinics as she fought for the striped bass and against the West Way highway project. She’s marched with candles in countless AIDS vigils, and donated money to the Hetrick-Martin Institute. She cared for her husband until he died, and now she campaigns for health care and senior rights.

Liberal Lady and I were recently talking about political and community issues when, out of the blue, she volunteered, “Tim, I don’t agree with the idea of gay marriage.” Liberal Lady rambled on with the tired diatribe that marriage is meant for a man and a woman.

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed sodomy laws, and yes, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has opened the way for same-sex marriages, going a step beyond the Vermont legislation recognizing our civil unions.

But still, Liberal Lady could have been Joe Bruno, the New York State Senate Republican leader who said after the Massachusetts decision, “I don’t believe people of the same sex need or ought to be legalized in marriage.”

Some prejudices just won’t go away with a high court decision. I suspect Liberal Lady has a number of liberal friends who are queasy about queer matrimony.

At age 48, I’m a bit testy, if not downright impatient, with my not-quite-ready-to-be-supportive straight counterparts. It was okay that we just began to persuade heterosexuals in the 1970s, that we pushed for tolerance in the 80s, and for acceptance in the 1990s, but now, in the 21st century, I say, “Enough already!”

In fact, I’m ready to set a deadline. I give Liberal Lady and all other New Yorkers—liberals, conservatives, bohemians, yuppies, to name a few groups—until Gay Pride 2004 to either join us or voice their opposition to same-sex marriage.

And after that? Liberal Lady, if you haven’t endorsed same-sex marriage, you shall then be labeled for what you are—a heterosexual supremacist. An unrepentant heterosexual supremacist. A contemptibly smug, haughty hetero.

To me, a heterosexual supremacist is not much different from a white supremacist, a member of a country club with racist admissions policies, a misogynist, or any garden-variety hypocrite who believes that he or she is inherently superior than other Americans.

By the virtue of their penis-in-vagina sexual orientation, heterosexuals believe they are entitled to a plethora of rights, privileges, and protections that are categorically denied to gays, lesbians and transgendered people.

Based upon centuries of social oppression, heterosexual supremacists believe that only straight people who engage in matrimony should be protected when it comes to sharing and dispersing property, and life insurance and Social Security benefits.

The heterosexual majority of the Western World has developed a sophisticated social system and legal framework for rewarding people who are married—whether in once-in-a-lifetime unions or in serial monogamy like King Henry VIII’s or Liz Taylor’s. This system, moreover, is buttressed with taxes paid by LGBT wage earners, as well as their straight peers. Yet like those peers, we gay men and lesbians also have partners. We love, date, mate, break up, and have long-term relationships. We have kids—by surrogate mothers or fathers, by adoption, and also the old-fashioned way—and raise them until adulthood, just like heteros.

Beautiful lesbian and gay relationships, however, can be scarred if lovers can’t visit their sick partners in the hospital because they aren’t related or married. And if one partner dies without a will providing the partner with explicit protections, the survivor can face the greed of otherwise absent relatives eager to grab the deceased’s property and cash assets.

If only those of us who choose to could get married, life would be just a wee bit easier. We are demanding nothing better, but also nothing less than everyone else. We just want equality.

So Liberal Lady, you have six months to think this through. You are either for us or against us. Admit your guilt and cast aside your allegiance to the heterosexual oppressors. Join your lesbian, gay, and transgender siblings in calling for marriage for all consenting adults who want it.

Since it was good enough for you, it is now just as good for us.

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Tim Gay is the male Democratic district leader in Chelsea

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