"Fear of a Gay Planet"

The blog for Citypages, an alternative newsweekly for the Twin Cities, has a very interesting look at attitudes and arguments on both sides of the debate over a civil unions and marriage ban in Minnesota. In "Fear of a Gay Planet" Britt Robson takes time to look behind the back and forth in the Senate committee hearing and talks to some of the people gathered at the Capitol. Some of Robson's observations about those who support a ban:

If there was one thing I hadn't anticipated, however, it was the enormous and visceral fear of gays and their influence over society demonstrated by supporters of the amendment.

"I believe that if [the amendment] doesn't go through, it is a threat to my grandchildren," said Marie Ives of Rosemount, who spent much of her time outside the hearing room reading the Bible. "I see this as an attack on His way and so the Lord commits me to be here, to stand in His righteousness, which is Jesus."

When I asked her about civil unions, Ives cut me off. "My focus isn't on that. It is on what will happen to our children in our public schools, when it will be allowed for teachers to say that homosexuality is okay," she said. It was obvious that such a prospect terrorized her. What should happen to people who say homosexuality is okay? I asked. "That is in God's hands. That is not for me to say," Ives replied.

There were four or five people I spoke with outside the hearing room whose feelings were very similar to that of Ives. Most of them were suburban and middle-aged, and they clearly felt as if they were being beseiged.

We can't spend all of our time trying to persuade our ardent opponents to change their minds when there are so many voters who will vote "No" once they have accurate information. But it's helpful to me to try to understand what motivates our opponents to push a statewide vote on this constitutional amendment. Why they think pushing a ban is so much more important than many other issues facing our communities. I have a feeling that this blog post hits it right on. There is a lot of fear out there, and I don't want to underestimate how real that is for some people.

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At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

These are interesting comments, Joshua. And they smack of what many folks hear every day. Just yesterday, I was listening to Christian radio here in Milwaukee, and the commentator was in full panic mode. "The homosexuals are attacking us!" "We need to fight for our rights as Christians!" "How can they call us bigots when we are the ones who are being discriminated against?" There really is a seige mentality out there.

I think that it is all the more important for Action Wisconsin to keep up the positive words, and to continue to treat the opponent with dignity. You've been great so far.

Folks in panic mode need to understand that we are not out to destroy Christianity. So we need to keep lots of Bible-thumping folks in collars in our PR.

Folks in panic mode need to know that we are not trying to "re-define" marriage. So we need to keep talking about what today's Wall Street Journal called "families' security against adversity."

Thanks again and again for the good work!


At 5:04 PM, Blogger BILL said...

This was a really interesting post. I think it is good to approach ardent amendment supporters sensitively, keeping in mind that many people do feel "panic" and "terrorized" by the prospect of same-sex marriage or anything else they perceive as gay. What these people say has importance even though it seems hyperbolic and irrational to those of us who are against the amendment and, I would imagine, to many of those people out there who are more ambivalent on the amendment. These kind of unscripted, candid, emotional comments have power. We should not be quick in dismissing them, even if they seem alarmist to us.

I think Action Wisconsin has done a great job of keeping this in mind. I also think that work done by Action Wisconsin's speakers bureau and door-to-door canvassing are important in putting an unscripted, candid, emotional message out there on behalf of those against the amendment.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Tom in Rhinelander said...

I'm not sure what Keith means by "So we need to keep lots of Bible-thumping folks in collars in our PR.". As a card carrying member of the religious left, I can't standby without giving an alternative perspective on the Bible. I agree that we need to be respectful of other people’s opinions and agree to disagree about the way some people read the Bible. However, we need to let the mainstream know that the religious right wing does not have exclusive ownership of God. We’ve got lots of support from mainstream religious organizations and we just need to put the message out that there is an alternative view point... and do it without offending or sending people over the edge. I agree that the tone of our debate is important but we do need to stand up for what is right and just; it’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Keith said...

Actually, Tom, I (a card-carrying member of the religious right) am agreeing with you (a card-carrying member of the religious left).

We need to be thumping our Bibles! I think you understood my comment to mean that we should use our PR to show Bible-thumpers in disdain. On the contrary, we need to show that we can thump our Bibles, too, and give other interpretations of the Bible.

The problem, actually, is that it is merely the "mainstream Protestant" denominations who are vocally on our side, and they mostly represent the religious left. Daily, I thank God for the good work of the UCC and the ELCA and the MCC and others.

But when their ministers appear in collars in front of crowds, they seldom thump their Bibles like the folks on the right. Instead, we hear a lot of talk about inclusivity and acceptance and the compassion of Jesus. These are great messages for rallying our base.

However, to convert the right-wingers, I am more comfortable with a little fire and brimstone. A little more talk about how this amendment will DESTROY FAMILIES and ENCOURAGE PROMISCUITY and DRIVE BIBLE-BELIEVING GAY AND LESBIANS away from Wisconsin and our churches.

Glory be to God who does wonderous works through his saints! (from an ancient Christian hymn in honor of Serge and Bacchus, a gay couple who were martyred as a pair)

-- Keith.

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Tom in Rhinelander said...

Whew, I'm glad we cleared that up! Thanks for the clarification. See what happens when we agree to disagree... sometimes we find some common ground.



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