Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The march of equality

During my lifetime, there have been two great social revolutions (if you don't count texting and reality shows): Civil rights, and the woman's movement. Each change toward greater equality is, of course, very unfinished, but nonetheless they are profound. And both of them, although centuries old, only really started gaining traction during my youth. (Hey, don't we all believe in our hearts that our youth and young adulthood were REALLY IMPORTANT times?)

Back then, however, another social revolution had yet to begin. But it seems clear today that once the smoke clears - and enough young people, who also believe their times are important, keep replacing old people - the revolution to also guarantee equality to gays will gain similar traction.

When I was in high school, it wasn't uncommon for me to hear certain other kids talk bravely about going out that night to find homos to bash. (I'd always look at them funny: after all, back then the rather stupid term "latent homosexuality" was still in vogue.) Still, those kids were part of their culture. Contrary to the "South Pacific" song, you didn't have to be carefully taught; homophobia was in the air you had to breathe.

These days, the sitcom catch phrase "not that there's anything wrong with that" is becoming politically correct. Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont allow same-sex marriages. (Maine voters overturned that state's same-sex marriage law; in California it took $43 million in donations to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling on the subject.) But the tide is turning. A CNN poll last May found that 58 percent of people 18 to 34 years of age think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry.

Unlike the air I breathed as a kid, the air today finds no surprise at interracial marriages, and the old riddle about the man who takes his injured boy to the hospital, only to find that the doctor refused to operate because "he is my son," seems oh so quaint. I suspect it won't be too long before the shock of the idea of two mommies or two daddies seems just as antiquated. Equality, let's hope, marches on.

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