– Leisha Senko, staff
When does respecting a legal or ethical standard become a societal expectation? More specifically, when will it be considered a truly bigoted stance to condemn homosexuality?
It seems we’re on the precipice of this change, teetering on the tipping point, but not quite there. It can be seen broadly in the world where ordinary people can say, “I just personally don’t think it’s right,” and no one finds it appropriate to ask, “Why?”
When gay rights groups are invited to make a statement about their hopes and activities, the world views it as fair and balanced to invite on an opposing view, mainly someone who condemns the homosexual lifestyle, like Tony Perkins. He seems to be a staple on CNN. Many activists and a great chunk of the population are waiting for these opponents of gay lifestyle to wear out their welcome, and who can blame them?
Up until the mid-70s, it was still considered acceptable to invite white supremacists to counter ideas of racial equality on the news. In the 80s, around which time interracial marriage was a hot topic, it was considered kosher to get opposing opinions from those who actually lobbied against it as a right. Today, this would be seen as ludicrous; yet, in many ways, we still subscribe to the notion that those who often baselessly disagree with social progress have the right to the media spotlght and a certain level of respect for their stance, despite heaps of contrary evidence.
This trend of placing hateful ideas on a pedestal can still be felt close to home in Brantford. Recently, a local man wrote a letter to the editor entitled “Proudly Homophobic.” Found in the June 15 edition of the Expositor, it is a response to the pride flag erected at City Hall. One excerpt states, “Homosexuality is not normal and no matter how many flags are raised or how many parades are held it will not make it normal.” This is not only a demonstrably false statement, but also incredibly hurtful. Dr. Rebecca Godderis, who works with both the LGBT group in Brantford and the Rainbow Alliance on the Laurier campus, said that finding those negative letters was an incredibly sad happening during what was supposed to be such a happy time for those who worked to raise the flag.
With all of this, though, came numerous supporters of the flag and tolerance in general. Ordinary citizens, celebrities, scholars and the like have said definitively that much like the general standing on racial or gender equality, the debate on homosexuality is over. Only the most base, pseudo science would ever claim publicly that homosexuality is an abomination and that society must shun LGBTQ individuals. Society, by and large, has become much softer and more understanding. Most have approached a live-and-let-live policy, and yet those who stand on the sidelines, speaking words of hate are still given coverage and attention. We must remember that words are powerful and have the ability to change lives.
The recent rash of gay student suicides because of homophobic bullying is a good indicator of this. Right now, the state of Michigan is working on a bill to allow gay bullying if the instigator is doing so for a spiritual reason. The idea that inflicting pain is legitimate if one can claim a “moral” high ground is sad, but it seems encapsulate the entire problem.
On the Conan O’Brien Show, a gay marriage scheduled to be officiated by the talk show host has led a whole slew of media outlets to open their segments by asking if, “Conan is planning on pushing the envelope?” The media formula seems to dictate that if opposing voices aren’t present, commentators must play the part of political traditionalist to avoid offending the offensive.
In the end, though, even with all of these road blocks to fair coverage and public decency, the tide is shifting; one day, comments, letters and positions held against equality will be marginalized as not only outdated but insensitive and cruel. Sean Penn said it best in his Oscar acceptance speech for the Movie “Milk.” He said, “I think it is a good time for those who voted against the ban on gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes.”