by iampunha | 6/26/2008 08:00:00 AM
Part of the human condition is the ability to be repulsed by most anything.

Fortunately, another part of the human condition is the ability to deal with anything that doesn't kill you (to borrow from someone who said it a little more famously). You might not come out the stronger for it, but you'll still be there.

The fascinating thing, then, is when people are clearly not going to be killed or otherwise harmed by something, but they pretend no danger could be greater than from this then-ominous portent of Things To Come.

On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court found, 6-3, in Lawrence v. Texas that actually, ominous portents regarding legalizing same-sex sodomy had been a false alarm. (Oops!)

And on June 26, 1988, my brother was born.

For Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller Sr., who was born on this date in 1898, and who served this country for more than half his life.

For my brother, born on this date in 1988, who introduced me to this site, and to whom you should direct any criticism that I take up too much time in your life and too much space in Diary Rescue with these diaries.

And for Freddie Mercury, just because I can.

Lawrence is one of a few cases in our country's legislative, executive or judicial history in which we decided one thing, then decided the opposite. Others include Brown, Prohibition, President (then former President, then President) Grover Cleveland and baseball in Washington, D.C. (Frankly, I think we had it right before the Expos moved.)

Lawrence resulted from two things. First, it benefited from being argued 17 years after Bowers, and thus time enough for social opinion to change.

Second, it benefited from case law supporting the right to private, consensual sexual activity — irrespective of marital status (so long as neither partner was married to someone not involved in the sexual activity) — and birth control.

The benefits of Lawrence are many, and most have almost no basis in who was actually getting arrested for sodomy.

The benefit that rings truest for me, and which very few people realize until I tell them, is the benefit Lawrence extends to teenagers, particularly gay teens.

If you are a gay teen in 2002, you are not allowed, by law in many states, to have sex with your partner (assuming you aren't in a heterosexual relationship as a homosexual). As a teen, you probably aren't thinking about marriage. But you probably are thinking about kissing, holding hands, eventually more.

And that "eventually more" is eventually illegal.

Does that deflate you?

Does it embolden those who dislike you (because you are gay or simply because)?

Does it complicate your coming-out process?

In as trying a time as adolescence often is, to legal proscriptions against an expression of love and passion is nothing short of unconstitutional. And that's part of why the Supreme Court ruled such.

I want to share a moment with you, in light of my brother's birthday, that should explain why today's shared entry means so much to me.

I do not remember when I came out to my brother (and my two sisters, who were also in the room), but I do remember that this news didn't change his perception of me.

By that I mean not that he had known before (I've yet to tell anyone who already knew) but that this was not negative news.

A year or more later, when I was back home from school for vacation, I saw my brother wearing a shirt with three symbols and three words.

Using the bathroom code for man (person with two legs) and woman (person with skirt on), some had made a shirt with a heterosexual couple (guy and girl), a gay male couple and a gay female couple.

Underneath the three couples was this:

"It's all good."

I don't think I have ever been so proud of my brother.

When I wrote in 2005 on the anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, I argued that my confidence in the future of civil rights in this country was due largely to the acceptance of that movement by most of the people my age and younger.

Minds change, true, but what happens more often, and more permanently, is that the younger generation comes along, comes into power and changes what is acceptable. (Barack Obama has tapped into this brilliantly by running a campaign that people my age, and people who came of age with John Kennedy, want to associate with. People are tired of fear, and they don't like that it seems acceptable. So when he lets them reject it, they do so.)

And with Lawrence, those minds are secured in the view that sexuality, beyond being a private matter unless and until it is made public, should not be used discriminatorily (unless it makes a person unable to do a job). No part of my job is made more difficult because I am not heterosexual. No part of it is made easier because I am not heterosexual. And any employer who thinks the details of my legal relations with human consenting adults makes me unfit to work there is setting themself up for a decline in product and productiving.

Bigotry is expensive; firing someone for being gay means you have to hire someone new and train them. Money down the drain because you objected to your former employer's lawful activity outside the workplace. Conservatism is expensive; being sued for discrimination ties up money in places where it can't make you more money.

And even a snapshot of history shows that people are inclusive if you don't poison them from birth. People have to be taught to hate, have to be taught that differences should be punished, should be segregated, should be made to feel unequal.

But decisions like Lawrence and people like my brother are heading them off at the pass.



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